Unselfish play helps Nuggets run past hot-shooting Nets
Facing 48 minutes without starting point guard Ty Lawson, Nuggets coach George Karl considered his options.
He could make liberal use of his timeouts in an attempt to keep veteran Andre Miller well-rested.
He could employ Julyan Stone, an undrafted rookie who had yet to make his NBA debut.
As it turned out, Karl had a roster full of point guards Wednesday night against the New Jersey Nets.
Running the floor and making the extra pass at every opportunity, the Nuggets recorded an assist on each of their first 15 field goals and finished with a season-high 37 in a 123-115 victory over the Nets at Pepsi Center.
“That’s our game, and we did it pretty well tonight,” Denver forward Danilo Gallinari said. “Everybody was ready to be open and everybody was looking for each other. We tried to play with different point guards. I was playing point guard, too. We were just trying to share the ball.”
Gallinari finished with 22 points and five assists, while Miller added 12 points and 12 assists as Denver overcame New Jersey’s franchise-record 20 three-pointers to end its brief two-game losing streak.
Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer added 19 points apiece for the Nuggets, who shot .595 from the field (44-of-74) and led by as many as 23 points before the Nets made a fourth-quarter charge.
“The guys passed the ball really well,” Denver coach George Karl said. “They made some really pretty basketball plays; 37 assists is pretty. Andre playing the point, he’s definitely trying to orchestrate more than score. I think guys feel that and then everybody gets contagious after a while.”
Miller made his first start of the season as Lawson sat out with a strained right foot. Lawson said he didn’t want to make the injury worse and hopes to return for Friday’s game against the Miami Heat.
In the meantime, he enjoyed the front row seat as his teammates put on a passing clinic. Many of Denver’s baskets were a result of secondary assists that led directly to the official assists.
“The ball’s touching a lot of hands out there,” Lawson said. "It was fun to watch us play like that. Everybody’s scoring, everybody’s into the game. You don’t know who’s going to score. It’s big.”
Even the rookie Stone got in on the action in his NBA debut. One day after being recalled from Idaho of the NBA Development League, he had three assists in six minutes of work.
“When you step on the court, you’re nervous,” Stone said. “I was pulling my drawstrings on my shorts the whole time. For me, it was just a dream.”
While Stone got his feet wet, Brewer and Gallinari took turns carrying the scoring load in the first half. Gallinari scored 17 points in the first quarter and Brewer matched him with 17 in the second.
The only thing that prevented Denver from winning by 30 was New Jersey’s remarkable three-point shooting. The Nets entered the game shooting 32.9 percent from long range, but went 20-for-35, including 12-of-18 in the second half. They got as close as eight early in the fourth quarter before Denver put the game out of reach with a 12-2 run.
“It was pretty good offense for our team,” New Jersey coach Avery Johnson said. “When we score 115 points, we think we should win. We couldn’t get any stops defensively. We didn’t limit their fast breaks. Our defense let us down.”
With the Nets in the rearview mirror, the Nuggets will prepare for Friday night’s matchup against the Miami Heat.
As much as Karl loved the unselfish play Wednesday night, he would like to see Denver take better care of the ball. The Nuggets committed 19 turnovers against New Jersey.
“I think if we turn the ball over 20 times against Miami, we’re going to be in trouble,” Karl said. “We’re going to have to handle the defense. Their defense creates a lot of offense. We have to be more committed to making better decisions, simple decisions, and hopefully still be efficient like we were tonight.”
Notes: Gallinari raised his scoring average to 17.2 points per game, which would be a career-high … Denver’s 37 assists were the most it has had since recording 37 against Golden State on March 28, 2009 … Nuggets guard Rudy Fernandez filled in at the point at times, finishing with 15 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals … New Jersey’s 20 three-pointers matched the record for a Nuggets opponent. Phoenix also made 20 against Denver on Jan. 7, 2008 … Rap icon Lil Wayne enjoyed a courtside seat at Pepsi Center and left to an enthusiastic ovation late in the fourth quarter.