Two-game series deficit accelerates Afflalo's timeline
Nuggets shooting guard says he will return for Game 3 at home Saturday
OKLAHOMA CITY – Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo was trying to buy time.
The price is no longer cost-effective.
In his recovery from a strained hamstring, Afflalo wanted to see how his teammates fared in the first two games of their first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Nuggets could manage a split, he might try to steal some more rest and return for Game 4 on Monday. After watching Denver lose both games in Oklahoma City, he is expecting to come back for Game 3 Sunday at the Pepsi Center.
“The plan changed real quick,” Afflalo said in the minutes after Denver’s 106-89 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday night.
“I was trying to let the series maybe dictate a little bit the length of my rest. There’s no way I’m going to sit back and watch anymore after that point – not when I know I can get on the court.”
Afflalo strained his left hamstring on March 5 and missed 13 of the final 18 games of the regular season
With the Nuggets in need of an additional defender against Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant, Afflalo’s return will be a welcome sight. As one of the league’s top three-point shooters, he also will give the Nuggets another scoring option.
“I’ve gotten plenty of rest,” he said. “I’ve gotten to sit back and watch. Hopefully my lack of not playing doesn’t affect my teammates in any negative way once I get on the court.”
MINUTE MAN: After playing nearly 43 minutes in Game 1, Thunder forward Kevin Durant logged 39:30 Wednesday night in Game 2.
Because of the long timeouts associated with national television and the two-day breaks between the first three games, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has the luxury of maximizing his superstar’s minutes.
“Fatigue is not an issue,” Brooks said. “If you are (tired), you have to block it out and play through it.”
One of Denver’s biggest strengths after the All-Star break was its depth; a league-leading eight players averaged double figures during that 25-game stretch. The time between games might be negating that advantage early in the series.
“There’s a mental fatigue and a physical fatigue that comes with the game of playoff basketball,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Our depth isn’t going to show up in Game 1. Our depth’s hopefully going to show up in Game 6 or 7. Hopefully we can figure out how to get it to Game 6 or 7.”
MONITORING MELO: Brooks and Karl weren’t surprised to see former Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony break loose for 42 points for the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. Brooks spent three years with Anthony as a Denver assistant, while Karl coached him for six seasons before he was traded to the Knicks on Feb. 22.
“The man is an incredible offensive machine,” Karl said. “Similar to Durant, there are certain things he does that you can’t defend. There’s 10 or 15 players in basketball that sometimes, for certain moments in certain games, they’re undefendable.”
Added Brooks: “He’s a big-game player. He makes big plays. He can score in a lot of different areas. He’s as good a scorer as Kevin is. There’s not a lot of guys in the world that you can say that about.”
ETC: Nuggets center Nene struggled from the field in Game 2, going 2-for-8, but he went 12-for-18 from the free-throw line to finish with 16 points. He also added nine rebounds ... Reserve forward Al Harrington did his best to help Denver chip away at a 26-point deficit, hitting three three-pointers and scoring 15 points ... The Nuggets had 48 points in the paint in Game 1 but managed only 28 in Game 2. They also had just 12 assists on 27 field goals.