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Nuggets get past Kings for franchise record-tying 15th straight win

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted March 23 2013 00:09

On the verge of matching a winning streak not seen in Denver for more than 43 years, Nuggets coach George Karl warned his young team against complacency.

He gathered the players together after the team’s morning shootaround Saturday and told then to continue to stay focused and maintain good habits.

“Don’t get bored with winning,” Karl said.

Winning never gets old, but it rarely comes easy in the NBA.

After jumping out to a comfortable lead against the Sacramento Kings, the Nuggets had to scrap and claw for a 101-95 victory that extended their winning streak to a franchise record-tying 15 games.

Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points, and reserves Anthony Randolph and Julyan Stone made key contributions as Denver (49-22) maintained its half-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers and one-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 3 seed in the West.

The Nuggets had not won 15 in a row since 1969-70 when they played in the American Basketball Association as the Denver Rockets.

“(The streak is) something that’s another motivation. It’s something very positive,” Gallinari said. “I’m part of Nuggets history, and that is great. We did something special for this franchise, and everyone will remember this team for what we did.”

Despite the win, Karl wasn’t happy with the overall focus and attention to detail.

The Nuggets committed 17 turnovers and saw a 15-point first-half lead turn into a one-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter. Sacramento outscored Denver 31-20 in the third quarter.

The uneven performance came two nights after rallying for an improbable win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I can’t deny that I’m disappointed that after Philadelphia we threw this out there, from a standpoint of energy and basketball pride,” Karl said. “It wasn’t a flat game; it was just kind of an NBA-funky game. Fortunately, we found enough confidence and enough skill to win the game.”

Playing their second straight game without starting point guard Ty Lawson (strained/bruised heel) and key reserve forward Wilson Chandler (separated shoulder), the Nuggets struggled to find an offensive flow.

Often settling for jump shots, Denver went 14-for-39 and committed nine turnovers in the second and third quarters combined.

“The last two games were similar; we’ve been up and down a little bit,” Gallinari said. “We have some good stretches and bad stretches. It’s probably because we were relaxed a little bit after all these wins that we had.”

With their winning streak in jeopardy, the Nuggets got a spark from Randolph and Stone.

Randolph opened the fourth quarter with an emphatic one-hand dunk, and he and Stone forced a backcourt violation with good pressure defense on the perimeter a few minutes later.

Randolph also drew a charge against Kings center DeMarcus Cousins as Denver surged into the lead. He finished with eight points and six rebounds in just 16 minutes.

“I already feel a part of (the streak) just with the little things I do with the team, but to come in and get meaningful minutes at a time of the game that matter, that’s great,” Randolph said. “We got the ‘W’. Let’s keep it rolling.”

Stone, stepping in as the backup to Andre Miller with Lawson sidelined, scored five points and didn’t have a turnover in his 14 minutes of work.

“I thought Julyan Stone and Anthony Randolph did a good job in the fourth quarter getting us going,” Karl said. “I didn’t think we lost any ground; in fact, we probably made up some ground.”

The Nuggets pushed their lead to seven with 3:44 to go but needed a few key stops in the final two minutes to secure the victory – and their place in franchise history.

Instead of celebrating, Karl remained cautionary.

“For the next (11) games we’ve got, I don’t want to hear about rest. I don’t want to hear about being tired,” he said. “I want our attitude to be the best basketball we’ve played all year. If you don’t want to do that, then I’ll play somebody else.

“I don’t want to hear, ‘My body hurts,’ or, ‘I’m sore.’ We have an opportunity, and resting is not going to get us ready for the opportunity. Every day, we can get a little bit better or a little bit mentally tougher or a little bit more aware of what we have to improve on. That’s just how I feel.”

And with that, Karl ended his postgame press conference.

History can be celebrated later. Right now, it’s about ensuring future success.

STAR OF THE GAME

Danilo Gallinari

Points 19 5-12 FG, 7-9 FT
Rebounds 8, 1 OFF 7 DEF
Assists 4
Steals 3
Blocks 0
GAME LEADERS
Points DeMarcus Cousins 24
Rebounds DeMarcus Cousins 15
Assists Isaiah Thomas 9
Steals Danilo Gallinari, Corey Brewer 3
Blocks DeMarcus Cousins 5
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Nuggets coach George Karl on surviving a close call against Philadelphia

"I’ll just go on the record for everyone to hear because what I’ve been telling the team for three days, for the next 12 games we’ve got. I don’t want to hear about rest. I don’t want to hear about we’re tired. I want our attitude to be the best basketball we’ve played all year."

KEY MOMENT

Dunk by Anthony Randolph sets tone to open fourth quarter

After being outscored 31-20 in the third quarter, the Nuggets got a spark when reserve forward Anthony Randolph attacked the rim in the open court and finished with an emphatic dunk. Denver showed more intensity at both ends of the floor from that point forward.
VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On why this was a close game:
“Because 90 percent of all NBA games are close. Now we have a different personality without Wilson [Chandler] and Ty [Lawson]. We haven’t found a comfort zone, or a flow. Especially tonight’s game, I felt that was fairly atrocious for two quarters; the second and third quarters. I can’t deny that I’m disappointed that after Philadelphia we threw this out there, from a standpoint of whatever the word is energy, NBA and basketball pride, that when you play poorly and come out and play with aggressiveness and you can’t play poorly. I thought our minds and our leadership was very average, but I do give them credit I thought Julyan Stone and Anthony Randolph did a good job in the fourth quarter getting us going. That was four or five minutes where A.I. [Andre Iguodala] and Andre Miller were sitting. I didn’t think we lost any ground; in fact we probably made up some ground. With Wilson and Ty out we need better leadership from our starters, especially the veteran starters. It wasn’t a flat game, it was just kind of NBA funky game and fortunately we found enough confidence and enough skill to win the game.”

On Anthony Randolph:
“He’s just aggressive; his pick-and-roll defense is something we like on the court. He has some offensive skills. He shoots too many jump shots for me, but everybody on my team shoots too many jump shots for me. People don’t understand at halftime we were 1-13 outside the paint, we weren’t much better in the second half. Everyone tries to shoot one or two, ‘I’ll try one. Oh I see my guy taken out of the game, I’ll take another one,’ like I’m a dumb coach. Like I don’t know what they’re doing. It’s just crazy stuff. I trust them, I trust that we’ll get some work done tomorrow, and then go on the road; we know we have to play more focused, a more tough-minded game to win on the road. We start in New Orleans against a team that just beat Memphis, a very honest win on their part. I think they’ve got all their players, except Jason Smith is not playing. Their star players are back.”

On not being satisfied with just winning:
“I’ll just go on the record for everyone to hear because what I’ve been telling the team for three days, for the next 12 games we’ve got. I don’t want to hear about rest. I don’t want to hear about we’re tired. I want our attitude to be the best basketball we’ve played all year. If you don’t want to do that then I’ll play somebody else. I don’t want to hear, ‘My body hurts,’ or ‘I’m sore.’ Everybody plays the same amount of games. Everybody. We have an opportunity and resting is not going to get us ready for the opportunity. That’s how I’ve always felt. If we had a bunch of 30-year olds I might have a different opinion, but we have a bunch of 25-year olds. Every day we can get a little bit better or a little bit mentally tougher or a little bit more aware of what we have to improve on. That’s just how I feel.”

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari

On George Karl talking about streak after game:
“No, he didn’t say that. He was pretty mad with me us, so after the 1st half and game he was talking about how we cannot allow ourselves to play like this because this is the last stretch before the playoffs. We have to take some steps forward to learn and grow before the playoffs instead of taking some steps back.”

On feeling good about what team has accomplished during streak:
“No doubt about it. I’m part of Nuggets history, and that is great. We did something special for this franchise, and everyone will remember this team for what we did so that is great. This is a very good thing that we’re doing, but it’s still a long season. What counts is not now but what we do in the playoffs so we have to be ready in the playoffs.”

On playing better tonight than in previous games:
“I feel pretty good. I was able to knock down some shots and make some good plays at the right time. I thought we all did the right thing, especially in the fourth quarter, and we knew we had to pick it up a notch to close the game and that’s what we did.”

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried

On winning ugly for 15th-straight win:
“Yeah it was a win. We had guys out like Ty [Lawson] and Wilson [Chandler] who helped us put together this streak. Guys stepped up, and I have to commend guys like Julyan Stone and Anthony Randolph for playing great games tonight.”

On players stepping up when key players are out:
“It is really difficult. I’m not used to certain things until certain times in a quarter. In the fourth quarter I was used to when Andre [Miller] is in and what we normally do, but I’m used to Ty [Lawson] in the first quarter setting everybody up and then starting to be aggressive.”

On what had to be done late in game to win:
“We had to stop them from shooting, stop them from hitting big threes that they are known for, and play great Nuggets defense, and I think we did that. We did have one slip up and I will take the blame for that, which was letting Salmons take that three. The next time down I didn’t let Marcus Thornton get that three off.”

Kings coach Keith Smart

On the game:
“Close and very, very close. I thought our guys after the initial thrust of the game, 27-17 to start the game off. Guys did a very good job of getting their composure and getting themselves back. Coming back after halftime and played themselves a very good third quarter. It came down to just; the team that made the fewest mistakes offensively and defensively probably pulled it out. I thought we had a little bit too many miscues with a coverage or a quick shot or unfinished shot. We probably had more mistakes or game-plays that help you win a game. I thought our big point was Marcus Thornton diving on that floor for that loose ball prior to halftime giving us a great possession. We needed that kind of play. Those kinds of plays win a basketball game. Again, Andre Miller, Mr. Miller-time, made great plays down the stretch to bring that team on. Veteran guy like that, makes the right plays at the right time and keeps the composure of that team right where it needs to be to win the basketball game. The guys overall did a good job.”

On the difference between the first half and second half:
“Well sometimes when you come this way some people don’t believe but that time change makes a difference and I thought our guys looked a little lethargic. Even this morning we were a little sluggish. That happens. But never the less we got in the game. Everybody in the NBA goes through it but I thought our guys after being so sluggish in the first, and some guys still had a little effect of that, but I thought by the time towards the end of the second quarter you saw the momentum starting to push. Then we came out halftime and made our adjustments, made our adjustments at halftime, and these guys came out and executed that and these guys put us in a psotion right there with a chance; with a very, very good chance to win the game. As I said, the team that was going to make the fewest mistakes on both sides of the ball, the one that was going to make the plays, [was going to win].”

Kings forward John Salmons

On the loss:
“We gave it our best shot, we played hard and tried to get the win but we came up just a little short at the end.”

On Denver’s confidence:
“If you win a lot of those games then yes, I guess if you won those games then yeah, you’re going to be confident. Experience always helps. At the same time, it worked against them, I mean close game, and they’re on a streak so they can get tight. It can go either way.”

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins

On rebounding against Denver:
“We played hard but you’ve got to really focus. It’s the set that they’re in that makes them so difficult. It puts them in great position and takes you out of position. Just to defend them and defend the boards.” On ending Denver’s streak:
“I was hoping we could do that [put fear in them], we had a chance to end Miami’s as well, came a little short. They definitely earned this game tonight. They’re a tough team.” On overcoming slow start:
“We started off sluggish but I believe it’s because of the altitude. Once we picked it up, I believe in that second half they really put us behind.”

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Danilo Gallinari paced Denver with 19 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. It is the first time in his career that he has reached those numbers in a single game. He is the first Nugget to do so since Nene on 3/26/10 at TOR.

• Kenneth Faried registered 17 points, nine rebounds and two blocks tonight, just the seventh time in his career he has reached those numbers.

• Andre Iguodala posted 15 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals, the 28th time in his career he has reached those numbers. The Nuggets are now 9-0 on the year when Iguodala hands out eight-or-more assists.

• Kosta Koufos collected 13 points and nine rebounds tonight. The big man is averaging 10.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.14 blocks in his past seven games.

• DeMarcus Cousins registered his 31st double-double of the season, and his fifth in as many games. He also tied his career-high with five blocks (previously had five on 3/5/13 vs. Denver).

TEAM

• The Nuggets beat Sacramento 101-95, winning their 15th straight overall game, tying the longest streak in Nuggets franchise history (also had 15 straight from 12/20/69 to 1/25/70 as the Denver Rockets in the ABA).

• Additionally, it is their 17th straight home win (longest single-season home streak since winning 19 straight from 1/28/89 to 4/20/89) and they are now 32-3 at home this year (best home record in team history was 36-5 in 1976-77).

• Denver has now won eight straight overall against Sacramento and nine straight at Pepsi Center. They finish the season series with a 4-0 sweep, just the third time since the Nuggets entered the NBA in 1976-77 that they have swept the Kings (second consecutive year doing so).

• All five Denver starters scored in double-figures tonight, just the fourth time this year, all at home, that they have accomplished this (4-0 in those games).

• Denver outrebounded the Kings 46-36 tonight, and are now 36-9 when outrebounding their opponent. It was the 19th time this year they have outrebounded their opponent by 10-or-more.

• The Nuggets registered 62 points in the paint, their 30th game of the season with 60+ points in the paint (fifth time in last seven games).

• Denver has now won 36 of their last 37 home games when scoring 100+ points. Additionally, they are now 29-3 when allowing fewer than 100 points.

• The Kings have dished out 20+ assists in 15 of their last 16 games, including each of their last four.