Even near the end of their rope, Nuggets keep swinging

Faried, Mozgov leading the charge for Denver
by Aaron Lopez

As the Denver Nuggets continue to play out the string, coach Brian Shaw constantly reminds them to resist letting go of the rope.

In a 24-hour period, they used that rope to tie two Western Conference playoff contenders to the lamp post.

The Nuggets gave their fans reason to be excited about the future with back-to-back victories against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday and the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Both wins took place despite the absence of six rotation players sidelined by injuries.

“This is all about momentum for us going into next season,” Shaw said after Thursday night’s 100-99 win at Golden State. “We’ve been talking (about) the way we’re going to need to play, regardless of who’s out there, and the effort that we need to compete every night. These guys can play with anybody if they play the right way.”

By rallying from a 20-point second-quarter deficit, the Nuggets showed their mental and physical toughness while playing the second of back-to-back games in a hostile road environment.

Timofey Mozgov was at the forefront of the charge. He grabbed nine rebounds in the first quarter and finished with a career-high 29 boards, second only to Dikembe Mutombo and Spencer Haywood (both 31) in franchise history.

Mozgov also matched his career-high with 23 points to become the first player in Nuggets history with at least 23 points and 29 rebounds.

“He just did it all,” Shaw said. “That’s huge for him. We made a change a month and a half ago to put him in the starting lineup and see what he could do. He’s starting to show us what he’s capable of.”

Forward Kenneth Faried, a beast over the past six weeks, made sure Mozgov’s big night wasn’t wasted by hitting a tough turnaround jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining. Faried finished with 18 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.

He and Mozgov outrebounded the Warriors 46-38.

“It showed that we’re a good team,” Faried said. “It shows that we have pieces, that we’re learning, that we’re getting better. It’s just amazing how people went down and people just step up each and every game, each and every day. We just showed that we had the fight and the will to win.”

The Nuggets earned a well-deserved day off Friday. They will try to extend their late-season winning streak to three games when they face the Utah Jazz on Saturday night at Pepsi Center.