Injuries leave Nuggets shorthanded against Rockets
In a shortened season with a compressed schedule, Nuggets coach George Karl knew injuries would become a factor at some point.
That point arrived Monday.
The Nuggets were without starters Arron Afflalo, Nene and Timofey Mozgov in a 99-90 loss to the Houston Rockets. Reserve forward Corey Brewer also was not available due to a death in his family.
“Injuries take away our strength,” Karl said. “Our strength is playing a lot of guys and seeing who’s playing well and fitting in the personality of the game. But we’ll be fine. It’ll be interesting.”
In order to keep his second unit intact, Karl started rookies Julyan Stone at shooting guard and Kenneth Faried at power forward. Kosta Koufos, coming off a 16-point, 12-rebound performance against Portland, made his second start in place of Mozgov.
The Nuggets hadn’t started two rookies together since Carmelo Anthony and Francisco Elson started against the San Antonio Spurs on April 14, 2004.
Faried, drafted 22nd overall last June, had appeared in five games before Monday – all with the outcome decided in the fourth quarter. After scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds, he is now averaging 4.7 points and 4.3 boards in just 10.0 minutes.
“This is a big moment for me in a big pressure situation,” Faried said. “I’ve been waiting. But everybody has to wait their turn. My turn has come earlier than expected and I just have to prove myself.”
Stone, undrafted out of UTEP, is averaging 2.3 points and 1.2 assists. He is a long defender and caused a matchup problem for Rockets leading scorer Kevin Martin, who went 1-for-9 from the field.
“I just hope (the rookies) can bring energy and enthusiasm,” Karl said before Monday's game. “Our bench has been good. We don’t have to get a lot of minutes from (Faried and Stone), but if we get 15 or 20 minutes from them, we’ll be fine.”
The Nuggets later lost starting small forward Danilo Gallinari to a sprained left ankle. More tests are scheduled Tuesday and there is no timetable for his return.
Nene has been bothered all season by a strained left heel, while Afflalo is sidelined with a sprained left ankle and sprained right big toe. Both could return as early as Wednesday.
Karl expected Mozgov to miss at least a week while recovering from a sprained left ankle suffered Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We just need to keep our focus, keep strong and try to find opportunities for some guys who haven’t played and see if they can do a good job,” Karl said.