Mozgov emerging as monster in the middle for Nuggets

Denver center dominates in back-to-back games
by Aaron Lopez

For those who stand 7-feet tall, it’s natural to set the bar high.

Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov is doing just that.

After scoring 17 points and grabbing a career-high 20 rebounds in Denver’s victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, Mozgov was asked if it was the best game of his four-year NBA career.

His response: “I hope that my best game is in the future.”

The Nuggets invested in Mozgov’s future this past summer when they traded center Kosta Koufos and signed Mozgov to a multiyear contract. He is averaging 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds – both well above his career-highs – in 17 games off the bench.

Over the past two games, Mozgov has posted 33 points and 35 rebounds. He is the first Nuggets player since Marcus Camby in 2005 to have at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in consecutive games.

The production is a product of Mozgov’s attitude and work ethic. He routinely is one of the last players to leave the practice court, and he never complains about his playing time.

His quiet demeanor and constant professionalism are among the reasons that his Mozgov’s teammates were celebrating on the bench when he grabbed his 20th rebound against Brooklyn.

“We were just talking about it on the bench and looking at the scoreboard,” fellow reserve Nate Robinson said. “For any big guy, especially to come off the bench and get (20), it is a great deal for us and him. He works extremely hard and he did a helluva job against their bigs. Grabbing 20 rebounds says a lot.”

Mozgov’s emergence has come in the absence of starting center JaVale McGee, who is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his tibia. Power forward J.J. Hickson now starts in McGee’s place, but Mozgov brings bulk off the bench for coach Brian Shaw.

It is a luxury that has helped the Nuggets win 10 of 12 games since McGee was injured. Denver has won seven in a row entering Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Timofey Mozgov has been playing lights out, rebounding the ball, scoring the ball,” Shaw said. “We’re coming along. I’m happy at the progress that we’re making, especially in light of the fact of how we started out the season at 0-3.

“I can see that we’re starting to get it in terms of the pace that we’re trying to play (and) in terms of defensively, what we’re trying to get done out there on the floor. We’re getting better in our half-court execution and obviously we can still get out on the run. Those are all areas that we wanted to improve in and I’m starting to see that improvement.”


WHEN: 5 p.m. MT
WHERE: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
TV; RADIO: Altitude; AM-950

DENVER (11-6)

F Wilson Chandler
F Kenneth Faried
C J.J. Hickson
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

F Alonzo Gee
F Tristan Thompson
C Andrew Bynum
G C.J. Miles
G Kyrie Irving

Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (fractured left tibia) are out.
CLEVELAND: None to report.

Since 2003-04, The Nuggets are 7-2 on the road against Cleveland . . . Denver has gone 10-3 overall against the Cavaliers dating to the start of 2006-07 . . . The Nuggets swept the Cavs (2-0) in 2012-13, marking their fifth sweep of Cleveland in the last seven years – after doing so only five times in the 27 years prior.