What 2 Watch 4 - Trail Blazers Vs. Nuggets
Nicolas Batum vs. Evan Fournier
The 2013-14 season has been a rough one for the Denver Nuggets in regards to injuries. Danilo Gallinari (left ACL), JaVale McGee (left tibia stress fracture) and Nate Robinson (left ACL sprain) are all done for the season and Ty Lawson has missed 10 games with various maladies, including a left rib fracture that has sidelined him for the last six games.
But if there's one ever so faint silver lining when it comes to injuries, it's that you get a chance to see what infrequently-used players can do with increased minutes. The Trail Blazers experienced that phenomenon Sunday night, with Thomas Robinson playing possibly the best game of his career versus the Timberwolves in place of LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Nuggets are getting a taste of it as well with second-year guard/forward Evan Fournier, whose minutes and role have increased since Robinson and Lawson went down with injury.
The 6-6 wing from France averaged around 11 minutes per game in the first two months of the season, but has seen his court time skyrocket thanks to injuries. He is averaging roughly 23 minutes a game since the New Year and is shooting 45 percent from both the field and from three in the last two months, making a case for more minutes even when Denver's bench is back to full strength.
"The last four or fives games I think he's averaging 17, 18 points per game," said fellow Frenchman Nicolas Batum. "He's a good player. It took him a year to really learn the game. Last year at the end of the season Denver had some injuries and when guys went out he got some starts, really learned the game, he got more playing time."
Fournier's role has increased even more in the last five games with Lawson out, as he's averaging almost 31 minutes, 16.2 points on 46 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists, numbers similar to what his fellow countryman has averaged all season (though Fournier is handing out half as many assists).
"He spent the summer with the (French) national team," said Batum. "He didn't make the team but I know he worked out after that. He wanted to show he can be in this league. He's a scorer, big IQ, so that's why he's on the court. He's a smart guy on the court and he can score. That's why he's doing good right now."