Nuggets successfully navigate first half of East Coast trip
Before embarking on a four-game Eastern swing, Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari raised the possibility of winning all four games.
“It’s going to be one of the most important weeks of the entire season,” he said. “We look forward to being focused and trying to get four out of four.”
Two down, two to go.
With their overtime win Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the Nuggets improved to 2-0 on their difficult stretch of four games in five nights. After a day off, Denver plays at Washington on Friday and at New York on Saturday.
The Nuggets technically are on a five-game trip, but they will return home to Pepsi Center for practice after the New York game in advance of next Wednesday’s game at Sacramento.
Though there remains a lot of work to be done, Denver is in position to do something unprecedented in franchise history. The Nuggets twice have swept a four-game trip (2004-05 and 1987-88) but they have never had a perfect five-game trip.
Thanks in large part to Andre Miller, that possibility still exists.
With 28 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, Miller became the second player in Nuggets history to come off the bench and reach those marks in a single game. Alex English scored 31 points and added 10 assists and eight rebounds as a reserve on Dec. 18, 1983.
English started 833 of his 837 games with Denver. Asked Thursday why he brought English off the bench for four games in 1983, former Nuggets coach Doug Moe quipped: “The guy was a stiff. He couldn’t play.”
English, of course, remains Denver’s career scoring leader (21,645 points) and his No. 2 is one of four retired jerseys hanging at Pepsi Center.
With little depth on the roster and the Nuggets on a five-game losing streak, Moe said he probably used English as a reserve in an attempt to add some scoring punch to his second unit. The Nuggets went 38-44 during that 1983-84 season.
“That was one of our worst years,” Moe said. “We had a bad team. We had our core guys (English, Kiki Vandeweghe, T.R. Dunn and Dan Issel) but we were awful off the bench.”
Nearly 30 years later, depth is not a problem for the Nuggets (10-5), who could go 10 deep on any given night and boast six players averaging double-figures in scoring. Miller became the sixth Denver player to lead the team in scoring in the first four weeks of the season.
The Nuggets’ depth has enabled them to cope with minor early season injuries to point guard Ty Lawson (one game), center Timofey Mozgov (one game), power forward Nene (three games) and reserve Rudy Fernandez (two games).
Mozgov sat out against the Sixers because of a strained lower back and is a game-time decision for Friday’s game against the Wizards.
Kosta Koufos, who started in Mozgov’s place, Chris Andersen and Al Harrington have served as Denver’s primary big men off the bench, leaving few minutes for popular rookie Kenneth Faried.
Faried attended high school in Newark, N.J., and is still waiting patiently for his opportunity as the Nuggets make their only trip of the season to the East Coast. Newark is about 20 minutes from Madison Square Garden, site of Saturday’s Nuggets-Knicks showdown.
“I try to stay focused and stay ready,” Faried said. “Other than that, the guys are handling business well. They’re playing hard and bringing wins to the program, so you can’t do anything but be happy and stay ready.”
Faried, the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, has appeared twice this season in the fourth quarter of lopsided Denver victories. Karl and the coaching staff love his athleticism, energy and work ethic, but the lack of a summer league and normal training camp left Faried – and fellow rookies Jordan Hamilton and Julyan Stone – at a slight disadvantage.
“Faried is going to be a player,” Karl said. “I know the fans want to see him now, but I think you’ll see him (get) some minutes this year. Kenneth is working himself into a good place. All our rookies are in a good place and they’ll get an opportunity to play this year.”