Riding four-game win streak, Nuggets get moment to breathe
After playing a double-overtime game to close a stretch of four games in five nights, the Denver Nuggets had a perfect record and a wry sense of humor.
“I think Andre (Miller) had a great line,” Nuggets coach George Karl said Monday. “He said something like, ‘I’m so tired, I’m not even sweating anymore.’ ”
Miller and his teammates needed every ounce of energy to outlast the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Their reward was a 4-0 record on their Eastern swing and three days off before Wednesday’s game at Sacramento.
“The New York game was just a mental toughness fight of trying to figure out how to win that game,” Karl said. “I still don’t know exactly how we did it. I’m just happy we did. Our fortitude to stay involved in the game was pretty incredible stuff.”
“There’s a good feel right now. The big thing is not to get too happy and give something back like a game in Sacramento, where if we play the right way, we have a good chance of winning.”
With a quarter of the season in the books, the Nuggets (12-5) have the second-best record in the Western Conference and the third-best record in the NBA. It’s an impressive start for a young team often criticized for lacking a “superstar” to rely upon in late-game situations.
“Hopefully people are realizing we’ve got a lot of skill and a lot of talent – more talent than people think we have,” Karl said “Everybody wants to say we don’t have star. You don’t know who our star’s going to be on that night. It can be one of four or five guys.”
The Nuggets persevered in New York despite being without starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo (groin strain) and reserve guard Rudy Fernandez (strained Achilles’ tendon). Danilo Gallinari played an NBA season-high 52 minutes against his former team and finished with a career-high 37 points. Four other Nuggets played at least 40 minutes in the victory.
“I’m tired,” Gallinari said after a light practice Monday. “I was very tired (Sunday) when we came back. These two days of practice are very important for maintenance and taking care of your body and getting back with the right energy for the next game.”
It’s uncertain whether Afflalo and Fernandez will play Wednesday as Denver tries to complete its first 5-0 road trip in franchise history; both are listed as game-time decisions. After aggravating a hamstring injury several times late last season, Afflalo is taking a cautionary approach this week.
“This (injury) was nothing like that (hamstring), but that circumstance allows me to be more patient,” Afflalo said.
With a deep roster playing at a high level, patience is a luxury Afflalo and the Nuggets can certainly afford.