Faried, Fernandez put exclamation point on Nuggets victory

Fast-break alley-oop highlights 27-point win over Kings

On the day that the NBA unveiled its 2012 All-Star ballot, Nuggets rookie Kenneth Faried showed why he could be worthy of an invitation to compete in the slam-dunk contest on All-Star Weekend.

He would be wise to take Rudy Fernandez with him.

Faried scored his first NBA points in emphatic fashion Wednesday night, converting a one-hand slam on an over-the-shoulder, no-look alley-oop from Fernandez during Denver’s 110-83 rout of the Sacramento Kings.

“Every game is the sort of game where dunking fits in for me,” Faried said. “I’m going to come in, play hard, do what I have to do, block shots, rebound, play defense first. Once we get on the break, it’s all fun and games.”

The dunk sent a buzz through the crowd in a game that was never close after the Nuggets put together a 22-3 run over an 8:31 span bridging the first and second quarters.

Denver led by as many as 31 points, shot an NBA season-high .605 and finished with a team season-high 31 assists – none more scintillating than Fernandez’s pass to Faried.

After Ty Lawson stole the ball from Isaiah Thomas near midcourt, Faried picked up the loose ball and bounced a pass to Fernandez streaking toward the basket. Instead of settling for a conventional layup, Fernandez flipped the ball backward to the trailing Faried.

“He gave me a totally no-look,” Faried said. “I thought he might throw it off the backboard. I didn’t know where he was coming from. All I saw was the ball go up in the air and I had to pretty much go get it.”

Fernandez, who finished with 12 points and eight assists, said he did not see the replay in the arena but he looked forward to watching it on the highlights.

“It’s an unbelievable dunk,” Fernandez said. “I was in the fast break and I see he was behind me. I throw the ball and he catch the ball. It’s a good play.”

After building a reputation for his athleticism and rebounding ability at Morehead State, Faried was the 22nd overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. On another team, "The Manimal" might average 15-20 minutes per game, but his playing time has been sparse because of Denver’s tremendous depth.

He appeared in just one of Denver’s first six games but got an opportunity with the Nuggets leading the Kings by 24 points early in the fourth quarter. In less than 10 minutes, he finished with seven points, four rebounds and four blocked shots.

“He played well,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I don’t believe you give rookies minutes; they earn minutes. You’ve got a lot of guys who don’t want to give their minutes up.

“Even though it’s a team, there’s a competition – a proud competition – for minutes. Then you don’t have practices where you can see a rookie getting better. It’s hard to figure out. We might fall into a situation where he gets minutes.”

Faried’s dunk overshadowed another well-balanced performance by the Nuggets (5-2), who won their third straight game and improved to 4-0 at Pepsi Center.

Kosta Koufos started his second straight game in place of injured forward Nene (strained left foot) and recorded his first career double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). Center Timofey Mozgov ran the floor well and scored 11 points, while Al Harrington added 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

The Nuggets also finished with 31 points in transition against a Sacramento team playing the second of back-to-back-to-back games.

“Four quarters of us running up and down is definitely going to wear on the opponents, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Harrington said.

After completing a perfect three-game homestand, the Nuggets will play back-to-back road games Friday in New Orleans and Saturday in San Antonio.

They hope to have Nene back for at least one of those games. He went through shootaround Wednesday but still felt sharp pain in his foot.

“It’s much better than it was two days ago, but it’s still sharp,” Nene said. “It’s still bugging me if I move around. But it’s progress.”

Notes: For the second time in franchise history, the Nuggets had 12 players score at least six points in a game. It also happened on March 22, 2005 … Denver improved to 65-2 at home since the start of the 2008-09 season when scoring 110 points or more … The Nuggets are now 10-0 over the past two seasons when recording 30-plus assists … Denver also ran its record to 31-1 since the start of last season when outshooting and outrebounding the opposition.

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for Nuggets.com, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...