Nuggets, Karl return home for Magical night
For Nuggets coach George Karl, the only disappointment of winning his 1,000th career game was that it didn’t take place in front of the home crowd in Denver.
As a consolation, he was able to begin the march to his next milestone Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.
Karl earned victory No. 1,001 after the Nuggets used a dominating fourth quarter to pull away for a 111-94 win over the Orlando Magic.
“I told the coaching staff, probably other than the Dallas game (a 103-92 road win), it’s probably the most quality win we’ve had all year,” Karl said. “We didn’t have those moments of beating ourselves or hurting ourselves defensively. We made good plays all night long.”
There was celebration before and after the game.
To honor Karl for becoming the seventh coach in NBA history to win 1,000 regular-season games, Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke and executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri presented him with a trophy shortly before tipoff.
“I think I’m going to punch Masai,” Karl said with a smile. “That was really nice, but it makes me feel uncomfortable a little bit because I didn’t win 1,000 games. It just goes on my record. There’s a lot of coaches and a lot of players that are a part of those 1,000 wins. I’m happy that the fans recognized me. It was goose-bumpy a little bit. It’s still goose-bumpy a little bit.”
Karl had plenty of players to thank for his latest victory.
Carmelo Anthony scored 35 points on 14-of-21 shooting and he also grabbed 11 rebounds, while Ty Lawson had 16 points and six assists in place of injured starting point guard Chauncey Billups.
Nene added 10 points and 10 rebounds while battling Orlando center Dwight Howard in the paint for much of the night. Anthony Carter also contributed at both ends, hitting two jumpers in the first half and playing strong defense against J.J. Redick when the Nuggets pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Redick finished with a career-high 29 points, but scored only two during Denver’s 24-6 run over the game’s final nine minutes.
“If you gave out game balls, you’d be giving A.C. a game ball,” Karl said. “We got Redick under control when we put A.C. on him for three or four minutes.”
Carter will see more playing time this week as Billups recovers from a partially torn ligament in his right wrist. Billups initially sprained the wrist Nov. 20, and he aggravated the injury last Friday against Toronto. He is listed as day-to-day.
“I’ll be playing when I feel good enough to play. I don’t know when that is,” Billups said.
“Just rehab, rehab, rehab. Hopefully it feels better. I know that it won’t be all the way back right when I come back, but as long as it’s manageable where I can make a chest pass or follow through on my shots … if I can do that, I can deal with a little pain. That’s nothing.”
As Billups faces rehab, rehab, rehab, Anthony continues to be the subject of unsubstantiated rumors, rumors, rumors.
Anthony was genuinely surprised when his postgame interview session began with a question about his reaction to being traded to the New Jersey Nets.
“I haven’t heard that one,” he said.
For good reason. The report by KMGH Channel 7 was immediately dismissed by Nuggets officials.
“I’ve been listening to reports all summer,” Anthony said. “I’m here. You’ll see me here Thursday night.”
That’s when the Nuggets will put their NBA-best 11-1 home record on the line against the San Antonio Spurs, who boast the league’s best overall record (20-3).
It will be another good test for a Denver team that passed with flying colors against the Magic.