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Even without an All-Star, Nuggets continue to climb in West

Denver has risen from ninth to sixth in the conference since Dec. 13

In addition to grabbing 9.8 rebounds per game, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried is one of six Denver players averaging double-figures in scoring this season.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Averaging a double-double for much of the first half of the season, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried set his sights on an invitation to the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston.

When the Western Conference reserves were announced Thursday, Faried saw it as an opportunity for self-evaluation.

“I’m not a good enough player yet,” he said after practice Friday. “I have to get better and stay focused. As long as my team’s winning, I don’t care that much. I just know I have to get better if I want to be an All-Star someday.”

Faried, averaging 12.0 points and 9.8 rebounds, is one of six Nuggets scoring in double-figures, led by Danilo Gallinari at 16.6 points per game. Three others average more than eight points each, and nine players have led the team in scoring at least once this season.

The balanced formula has been effective; Denver (26-18) is sixth in the West, just three games behind No. 4 Memphis.

“It’s more of a team effort than one or two superstars on the team,” point guard Ty Lawson said.

Though he would have enjoyed seeing one of his players wearing a Western Conference All-Star jersey, Nuggets coach George Karl recognized the value of having four days off in the dog days of an NBA season.

“I would say the break is more important than the All-Star game,” Karl said. “I wish our guys would’ve got more consideration than they probably did, but I hope they can get over that in about 24 minutes.”

When Karl brought his team together at the end of practice Friday, he stressed the importance of staying focused for the final 10 games leading into the All-Star break. With a six-game homestand followed by a four-game Eastern road trip, there is an opportunity to build some momentum.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good place and we want to continue to do so,” Karl said. “I’d like to get at least seven or eight in our pocket, if we could. To do that, we have to be very efficient at home and very effective on the road.”

The Nuggets are 16-3 at Pepsi Center this season. They will look to continue their success Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings, who are 4-16 on the road.

“We have to come out enthusiastic and energetic and play like we’re playing Oklahoma City or San Antonio or the (L.A.) Clippers,” Denver forward Kenneth Faried said. “We want to solidify a spot in the Western Conference as a 3 or 4 seed.”

After surviving 17 of 23 games on the road to start the season, Denver has won 15 of its past 21 games to move from ninth in the West to sixth.

If they continue to climb the standings, the Nuggets almost certainly will get some recognition as a team to watch in the West – with or without an All-Star.


KINGS AT NUGGETS


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

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

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

KINGS
F John Salmons
F Jason Thompson
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Tyreke Evans
G Isaiah Thomas

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
No injuries to report.
SACRAMENTO:No injuries to report.

SERIES NOTES

Denver has won 15 of the last 22 games overall against the Kings … The Nuggets have gone 13-3 against the Kings at the Pepsi Center since the 2003-04 season … Despite losing both games in Sacramento during the 2009-10 season, the Nuggets have still gone 5-4 at Sleep Train Arena over the past four-plus years, after losing the previous 20 games in Sacramento from 1997-2006 … Denver’s 33-point win (118-85) in Sacramento on 12/6/08 is the Nuggets’ largest margin of victory over the Kings franchise since joining the NBA in 1976-77 … The Nuggets won the 2010-11 season series against Sacramento (3-1), the third time in the last four years Denver has won the series.