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JaVale McGee becoming increasingly efficient for Nuggets

Denver's athletic big man among NBA's top 10 in field-goal percentage and PER


After three-plus seasons as a starter in Washington, JaVale McGee is adjusting to his role as a big man off the bench for the Denver Nuggets.

“You have to humble yourself and just stay positive,” McGee said after practice Monday. “As long as I’m efficient, I’m just going to try to be the most efficient player I can be.”

Based on the Player Efficiency Rating created by Memphis Grizzlies executive vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger (formerly of ESPN), McGee is among the most efficient players in the NBA.

McGee’s 24.23 PER ranked seventh in the league behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Tim Duncan.

Among that group, McGee is the only one who plays less than 20 minutes per game.

“I think in the last couple of weeks, JaVale is understanding what he needs to do to play more minutes,” Denver coach George Karl said. “If I could get him to be a fundamentally sound player all the time, he’d play many more minutes.”

McGee is third in the NBA in field-goal percentage (.602), but Karl and the Denver coaching staff want him to be more consistent with his defensive assignments and decision-making. He was solid in those areas last week against Memphis and played the final 9:06 of Denver’s five-point victory over the Grizzlies.

“It’s definitely more important to finish games than start games,” McGee said. McGee will try to prove himself worthy of additional crunch-time minutes Tuesday when the Nuggets face the San Antonio Spurs at Pepsi Center.

The last time the two teams met on Nov. 17, the Spurs made 16 of 27 3-pointers while cruising to a 126-100 victory. San Antonio entered play Monday ranked fifth in the NBA in 3-point shooting (.380), so securing the perimeter will be point of emphasis for Denver.

“We went through some of their stuff pretty heavily in practice” Karl said. “We can’t get into the scramble mode and get out of position (defensively) as much as we did down there.”

That being said, Karl is looking forward to seeing if the Nuggets (13-12) can build upon the momentum of back-to-backs wins against Memphis and Sacramento.

“I think it comes at a good time for us,” Karl said. “We’re making steps forward … We respect them, but we’re not afraid of them.”

The Spurs will be playing the second of back-to-back games. They lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road Monday night.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, should be well-rested after a 25-point win in Sacramento on Sunday. Andre Iguodala was the only starter to play more than 28 minutes, and Denver got 64 points from their reserves, including 19 from McGee.

“Give credit to everyone that came off the bench,” center Kosta Koufos said. “They lifted us up. We’re just playing well. The coaching staff has done a good job with us in practice. We just want to build this momentum for San Antonio.”


SPURS AT NUGGETS


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

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

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

SAN ANTONIO
F Danny Green
F Tim Duncan
C Tiago Splitter
G Gary Neal
G Tony Parker

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Wilson Chandler (hip) and Julyan Stone (hip) are out.
SAN ANTONIO: Manu Ginobili (quad) is questionable.

SERIES NOTES
Denver has lost eight out of 10 overall games to the Spurs (four of those coming in Denver) … The Nuggets have lost four of their last five home games to San Antonio … By going 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road against the Spurs in 2009-10, it marked only the second time in team history that a season series finished with those results – the other being 1994-95 against the Lakers … The Spurs have played extremely well in Denver lately, winning four of the last six at the Pepsi Center … San Antonio actually has a winning record in Denver over the last 21 years – having gone 30-17 since the 1989-90 season … The most points Denver has ever scored in a half as a member of the NBA came against the Spurs on 11/7/90, scoring 90 in the first half in San Antonio … On the flipside, the fewest points Denver has ever scored in a half also came in San Antonio on 11/27/02, tying a team record with just 22 points in the first half, including a team record low three points in the first quarter … The Spurs have put up big numbers against the Nuggets themselves, setting a team record with 91 points in the second half at Denver on 1/11/84, including a team best 53 in the fourth quarter alone.