Forbes rises to the occasion in first NBA start
Gary Forbes hasn’t been around the NBA long enough to earn a chic nickname.
Mr. Unflappable might be a starting point.
The rookie out of UMass arrived at Denver’s training camp as a longshot to make the opening-night roster, but his hard work and strong play during the preseason made it impossible for the Nuggets to let him go.
Forbes played sparingly in the first three games of the regular-season, but another opportunity presented itself Wednesday night when Nuggets center Nene was ruled out of Denver’s game against the Dallas Mavericks because of a groin injury.
About a half-hour before tipoff, Forbes learned he would be in the starting lineup. His assignment: Make things difficult for nine-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.
“I think they were surprised to see Gary out there,” Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said. “I was surprised to see Gary out there. I knew he was going to start, but actually starting on Dirk, I was surprised about that. But Gary did what he was supposed to do when he got in the game and he played well.”
Despite giving up six inches to the 7-foot Nowitzki, Forbes limited him to two points in the game’s first eight minutes. Nowitzki eventually broke loose for 35 points in Dallas’ 102-101 victory, with 19 of those points coming when Forbes was on the bench.
“I’m just a real confident, positive person. I figured I was going to do well,” Forbes said. “I had that positive outlook that I was going to do well, come in and contribute and help the team. It didn’t end up the way I thought it would be – with a win – but it’s a stepping stone.”
Forbes, who spent the past two years playing in the NBA Development League and overseas, finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists in a performance that should earn him more playing time Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“He’s outworked some guys in practice,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We knew we had to play somebody some minutes that probably would be unorthodox. He’s earned it by his hard work and his commitment to practice and getting better.”
Forbes regularly stays after practice and works on his defense against veterans Anthony and Al Harrington, giving him a foundation for facing Nowitzki, whose career scoring average is 22.9 points.
“It’s tough – me being 6-6 and he’s 7-foot,” Forbes said. “I got my first taste today. Hopefully Saturday, I can do a better job.”
Forbes and the Nuggets will be looking for payback when they travel to Dallas on Saturday. Denver erased an 11-point third quarter deficit, but Anthony’s 20-foot jumper from the wing rimmed out at the buzzer.
“It went in and came out. I think I’ll make that shot nine out of 10 times, so I’m not too concerned about that,” Anthony said. “It’s a heartbreaker, but you make some, you miss some. It felt good once the ball was released.”
Anthony finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Arron Afflalo added 17 points, while Chauncey Billups and Al Harrington scored 16 apiece.
Undersized without Nene in the middle, the Nuggets struggled with Dallas’ zone defense at times, often settling for jump shots instead of attacking the rim. They also lost track of Mavericks shooting guard Jason Terry when Dallas made a strong push after halftime. Terry hit four three-pointers and scored 16 of his 20 points in the third quarter.
“Jason Terry does that to a lot of people,” Karl said. “Dirk had an offensive game going, but they needed someone else to jump in to win that game and Terry’s third quarter probably gave them that.
“They made shots. The way they play zone, they’re trying to make you outshoot them a little bit. Maybe we shot too many threes and didn’t take the ball to the rim as much, but in general, I think the film will show we played a pretty good basketball game.”