Afflalo finding shooting touch, shows flashes of 2010-11
Nuggets shooting guard puts together consecutive 20-point games
To accommodate a team function Monday evening, the Nuggets pushed their practice time back three hours to 2 p.m.
Shooting guard Arron Afflalo got the message but showed up at 11 a.m. anyway.
After enjoying two of his best performances of the season, Afflalo wasn’t about to rest on his laurels.
“Just part of my routine,” he said matter-of-factly after practice. “My thirst to win is starting to pick up. … My mental approach and everything I’m doing now is just trying to pick up the intensity a little bit.”
After struggling to find a rhythm in the first six weeks of the season, Afflalo is starting to show why the Nuggets signed him to a five-year contract on Dec. 20. He followed Thursday’s season-high 26-point performance against Golden State with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting in Saturday’s road win over the Indiana Pacers.
Answering the tired question about Denver’s supposed lack of a fourth-quarter closer, Afflalo made a clutch three-pointer and knocked down two clinching free throws against Indiana. He smiled broadly after the three-pointer.
“It’s just one of those good-feeling shots,” Afflalo said. “It almost closes out the game if you play smart to the end.”
Long considered one of Denver’s most dependable players, Afflalo is averaging 11.6 points this season – down slightly from his career-high 12.6 scoring average in 2010-11.
The dip can be attributed partly to fact that Afflalo signed his contract six days before the season-opener. He got off to a slow start while getting into game shape, and a groin injury sidelined him for two games in January.
Afflalo refuses to use injuries or his contract negotiations as excuses for his inconsistent play. No explanations will be necessary if he performs the way he did against Golden State and Indiana.
“Those are the first two back-to-back games that we saw Afflalo give us what we know he can give us,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We’ve never lost faith in Arron. We know Arron’s going to be a good player for us and we want him to get back to that level as soon as possible – and then maybe a little bit better by the end of the year.”
In the short term, the short-handed Nuggets will need Afflalo to continue to play at a high level. Karl expects the team to be without their starting frontcourt of Nene (calf strain), Danilo Gallinari (sprained ankle) and Timofey Mozgov (sprained ankle) Tuesday against Phoenix.
Gallinari is out indefinitely, while Mozgov and Nene are listed as questionable.
The Nuggets benefited from the return of forward Corey Brewer against Indiana. After missing three games for personal reasons, Brewer made his first start of the season and scored 19 points in the victory.
Notes: Denver improved to 9-5 away from Pepsi Center, which is the best record in franchise history through 14 road games. The key now is transferring that success to the home court. “Our opponents have been coming in here with more energy than us,” Afflalo said. “It’s got to be the opposite. We have to feed off the crowd and take pride in defending our home court.” … The home team has dominated the Suns-Nuggets series of late, going 13-2 since start of the 2007-08 season.