Julyan Stone prepared to join Denver's line of defense
Second-year guard is option as Nuggets seek to disrupt Stephen Curry
SAN FRANCISCO – Literally and figuratively, Julyan Stone was a long way from Des Moines.
Three months after reporting for an NBA Development League assignment with the Iowa Energy, Stone checked into a playoff game with the assignment of slowing the hottest shooter on Earth.
Stone only spent 82 seconds defending Golden State guard Stephen Curry, but he helped the Nuggets trim a 20-point deficit to 13 when Curry went off the court in the fourth quarter of Game 4 at Oracle Arena on Sunday.
With quick feet and long arms, the 6-foot-6 Stone is an excellent perimeter defender who could be called upon again as the Nuggets look to disrupt Curry’s rhythm and stay alive in the best-of-7 playoff series.
“I think everybody’s an option,” Denver coach George Karl said after a short team meeting Monday. “That’s the way it has to be when you’re down 3-1. It’s 2 minutes here, 2 minutes there. You’ve got to be ready to play. Whatever buttons we push, everyone’s got to be ready to go.”
After signing with the Nuggets as an undrafted rookie before the 2011-12 season, Stone has worked hard to return from hip surgery last summer. He also sprained his right knee late in the season but is back at full strength and eager to contribute.
“Steph is a great player, but it’s always frustrating to watch guys go off,” Stone said. “I feel I can bring a toughness on the defensive end. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get another chance.”
After scoring 31 points in Game 4, Curry is averaging 27.3 points and 10 assists in the series. He scored 19 points in a 4:22 span that helped Golden State pull away in the third quarter of Game 4.
Denver swingman Andre Iguodala said he probably will start out on Curry when the series resumes Tuesday at Pepsi Center, but the Nuggets will have to put together a compete team effort to keep their season alive.
The Warriors have scored at least 110 points in each of their three wins.
“It comes down to us,” Stone said. “Nothing to lose; that should always be the mindset. We have to establish ourselves defensively and bring a tough attitude. That’s what it’s really about, being tough and out-toughing them. I feel we have yet to do that in the series.”
After 11 days of practices, film sessions and shootarounds, the Nuggets held a team breakfast Monday and then flew back to Denver.
“Today was a day that we felt should be a relaxation day, up 3-1 or down 3-1,” Karl said. “It’s not going to be about X’s and O’s.”
“Win the next game and see how much momentum can you get going in your direction, how much confidence you can put back into your team. (Then) come back (to Oakland) and see if we can beat the wild, crazy gym.”