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Andre Iguodala finding comfort zone with Denver Nuggets

Versatile swingman has been hot in five games since the All-Star break

Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala matched his season-high with 29 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 27.
Cameron Browne/NBAE/Getty Images

Adapting to a new city, a new conference, a new team and a new style of play, Andre Iguodala figured there would be an adjustment period in his first season with the Denver Nuggets.

It just took more time than he than expected.

Iguodala, acquired by the Nuggets in a four-team trade last summer, has been superb on defense all season, but he has elevated the rest of his game since the All-Star break.

After matching his season-high with 29 points against the Portland Trail Blazers, Iguodala is averaging 13.0 points, 8.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals in the past five games while helping the Nuggets (37-22) to a 4-1 record.

“I’ve been slowly but surely trying to get there,” he said. “I thought it would be around January where I would really start getting it. It took a little longer than I thought. I’ve really been staying within myself and trying not to force too much. It’s been good that we’ve been winning through it all. I’m just trying to continue to fit in more and more.”

Iguodala’s five-tool repertoire was on full display Wednesday night in Denver’s 111-109 win at Portland. He attacked the basket in transition, hit two 3-pointers and added eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals.

“It was great to see Iguodala have his break-out game of the season for us, from the standpoint of confidence,” Nuggets coach George Karl said.

“A lot of comfort comes from confidence and feeling connected. Anybody who comes to a team as the (marquee) player, there’s a stress and a pressure to your performance. There’s a foundation of winning that we’ve gotten from him that’s bigger and better than last year.”

Due in part to his status as an All-Star in Philadelphia last season, there was a misperception that Iguodala would be a high-scoring wing for the Nuggets. Though capable of scoring 20-plus points on any given night, Iguodala often is more comfortable as a facilitator.

He has recorded at least eight assists in each of the past three games, setting up teammates in a variety of ways – on the fast-break, in the half-court pick-and-roll and passes off the drive-and-kick.

“Anybody that’s a facilitator of making the team better by the pass is a tremendous asset,” Karl said. “The greatest compliment I can get anybody is he makes people better. There’s only a handful of players that make people better every game. The last four or five games Andre’s done that.”

Karl said Iguodala is second only to point guard Andre Miller at throwing the lob pass to the rim. The alley oop passes are a sign of trust in both himself and his teammates.

“I’m trying to find my niche within the offense,” he said. “I kind of found it the last few games. I’m looking forward to getting back to my ways going into the playoffs. It’s right about now I need to get there, especially going down the stretch and trying to move up in the standings.”

The Nuggets remain fifth in the Western Conference as they prepare for a Friday night showdown against the Northwest Division-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.

Denver outlasted the Thunder 121-118 in overtime at Pepsi Center on Jan. 20.

“We come home to a tough Oklahoma City team who’s No. 1 in our division,” Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said. “We’re going to try to make a statement. We’ve got to come out and really play well against them.”


THUNDER AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
8:30 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude, ESPN; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

F Danilo Gallinari
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Ty Lawson

OKLAHOMA CITY
F Kevin Durant
F Serge Ibaka
C Kendrick Perkins
G Thabo Sefolosha
G Russell Westbrook

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Danilo Gallinari (left thigh bruise) is day-to-day.
OKLAHOMA CITY: No injuries to report.

SERIES NOTES
The Nuggets have claimed 16 of the last 25 games overall against the Thunder/Sonics, dating back to the 2006-07 season … Although the Nuggets have won eight of the last 10 home games against the Thunder/Sonics, the OKC franchise has actually played very well in Denver over the last eight seasons, having gone 8-12 at Pepsi Center since 2002-03 … Last season was the Thunder’s second multi-win season against the Nuggets since 2005-06 … The Nuggets claimed a 3-1 series win over the Thunder in 2009-10, marking their fourth-straight season series win against the OKC franchise until the last two seasons … Denver has recorded seven non-losing season series out of the last nine against the Thunder/Sonics (had been seven straight until 2010-11) … The biggest win in Nuggets regular season history (52 points) came against the OKC franchise on 3/16/08 – a 168-116 win over the Seattle SuperSonics at Pepsi Center … The 168 points scored by Denver also marked the most points the Nuggets have ever scored in a non-overtime game.