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Nuggets lose Faried to injury but hold off Blazers

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted April 14 2013 21:35

Hey, Andre Iguodala, you just helped the Denver Nuggets set a team NBA record with 55 victories. What are you doing to do next?

Enjoy the moment and then get ready for Milwaukee.

“We really want to get to 57,” Iguodala said. “We’ve got to handle business and not just be satisfied. We’ve still got work to do and that’s what we have to realize. We have to buckle down and get it done.”

Iguodala and the Nuggets also set a team record with their 37th home win Sunday and moved one step closer to securing the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 118-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Denver (55-25) overcame the loss of starting forward Kenneth Faried and held off a late Portland rally for their 22nd straight home win. The Nuggets are one game ahead of both the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies in the chase for third.

“I kind of wish we didn’t have the stress and pressure of having to win the next two games,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Usually when you win 55, it separates yourself. I’m just nervous and excited. The challenge for our team is going to be fun.”

There was more anxiety for Denver when Faried rolled his left ankle 2:40 into the game. X-rays were negative, and Faried is listed as day-to-day with a sprain. Starting forward Danilo Gallinari is out for the season with a knee injury.

“We’re dropping like flies,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “Kenneth’s injury is not too serious, I’ve heard. He’s a tough guy. He just needs to be ready for the playoffs. I think a lot of players are going to step up and play for the opportunity, like Anthony Randolph and a couple other players. They will step into the role and play well."

Denver had plenty of standouts while sending the Blazers to their 11th straight loss.

Iguodala filled the stat sheet with 28 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals, while rookie Evan Fournier scored a season-high 24 points.

Lawson, back in the starting lineup after recovering from a foot injury, finished with 12 points and 10 assists, and Randolph added a season-high 18 points off the bench.

Even with the across-the-board contributions, the Nuggets had to fight off the Blazers in the fourth quarter after Portland trimmed a 15-point deficit to three behind point guard Damian Lillard (30 points).

Iguodala, Fournier and Lawson combined for Denver’s final 14 points as Portland never got closer than six in the final three minutes.

“Wins are wins,” Lawson said. “We messed with the game a little bit. We have to be better (Monday). If we play like this, we probably won’t win.”

The Nuggets play their final road game Monday in Milwaukee. They can clinch home court in the first round of the playoffs with a victory.

“Two other teams are fighting with us,” Lawson said. “Just have to take care of our own business and we’ll lock up the third seed.”

STAR OF THE GAME

Andre Iguodala

Points 28 11-20 FG, 4-4 FT
Rebounds 7, 1 OFF 6 DEF
Assists 9
Steals 3
Blocks 3
GAME LEADERS
Points Damian Lillard 30
Rebounds Will Barton, JJ Hickson 9
Assists Ty Lawson 10
Steals Three Nuggets with 3
Blocks Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee 3
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

George Karl on Nuggets setting team NBA record with 55 wins

"It’s a ‘wow’ year for me. I’ve had a few before. I haven’t had one since I was in Seattle, but I have had the privilege of being with teams who have had 60 a couple of times; 55 is the next best thing."

KEY MOMENT

Fournier, Iguodala help thwart Portland comeback

After the Trail Blazers cut a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to three, Andre Iguodala scored in the lane and made a steal that led to a 3-pointer by Evan Fournier to cap a 7-1 run. Portland never got closer than six in the final two minutes.
VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On winning a franchise-record 55 wins:
“I kind of wish we didn’t have the stress and pressure of having to win the next two games. Usually when you win 55 [games], it separates yourself. This year, with five teams out in the West, we are going to have 55 wins probably. So I am just still my nervous and worried self. A couple of years ago you had two days to prepare. You have four teams right now that you could play. It’s probably not going to be determined until Wednesday at 8 or 9 o’clock at night so I am just nervous and excited. The challenge for our team is going to be fun. It’s going to be fun. In the summertime you look back at 55 [wins] and you go ‘wow.’ It’s a ‘wow’ year for me; I’ve had a few before. I haven’t had one since I was in Seattle though but, I have had the privilege of being with teams who have had 60 [wins] a couple of times. 55 [wins] is the next best thing.”

On how many wins he predicted the Nuggets would have this season:
“My realistic predictions: I thought the most we could squeeze out would be 54 [wins] so we are past that. I am above and beyond. I admire what my guys have done and how they have stayed in this season. They have fought through some tough moments and continued to improve. It is a pretty special year.”

On his thoughts when Kenneth Faried went down:
“I don’t know. Whatever the word is, I felt we were snake bit or bad luck had come our way. Our karma had turned the wrong way. I kind of saw it and then when he stayed down, I was worried but I don’t think anything is broken. We will find out much more tomorrow and probably make a prediction then.”

Nuggets guard Evan Fournier

On if he can be a reliable three-point shooter for Denver:
“I don’t think I’m a shooter. I think I’m a guy who can shoot. I don’t think I’m a shooter like a guy like J.J. Redick is, but I know I can hit it from deep.”

On what the team was feeling when Kenneth Faried went down:
“I don’t want to speak on anyone else but I was just focused on my game. I try not to think about it because if you do, you can get away from your game.”

On the importance of the next two games:
“It’s very important. We better get these next two games and get the three seed because we want home-court advantage for the playoffs.”

On what he brought to the game tonight:
“Like every game, I try to be aggressive. Coach [Karl] told me right before the game that I was going to start, so to bring defense, especially defense. I tried to do that and I think I did.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson

On how he felt:
“I felt good. I’m just getting comfortable playing my game; just pushing off of it [his foot] feels a lot better.”

On feeling better each game or dealing with pain:
“I really don’t feel any more pain. I’ve been out for two weeks so it’s about that time; I just have to get over it.”

On all the late season injuries:
“We’re dropping like flies [laughing]. Kenneth’s [Faried] injury is not too serious I’ve heard. He might be out for a week; he’s a tough guy. He just needs to be ready for the playoffs. I think a lot of players are going to step up and play for the opportunity, like Anthony Randolph and a couple other players. They will step into the role and play well.”

On winning franchise record 55th game:
“It’s huge. I think we bought into what Coach [Karl] was saying. I think we’ve just been playing harder and focusing more on defense. That translates to wins, and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”

Blazers coach Terry Stotts

On the game:
“I thought we played much better the second half. I don’t know if there was fatigue in the first half but the turnovers, obviously, were of concern, particularly in the first half. I thought we had some careless passes that led to their 18 points in transition. I liked the way we stayed with them in the first half, cutting it to four [points]. Ty Lawson made some plays that we didn’t have answers for but we played much better in the second half. I thought it was a very good performance by our guys in the second half.”

On the difference between the first and second half:
“It didn’t seem like we were as fatigued, but I thought we took better care of the ball for the most part. Damian [Lillard] was terrific as he has been all season and I thought he kind of carried the team and [the Nuggets’] small lineup opened up the court a little for us. I thought Joel Freeland, in the second half, gave us good energy and J.J [Hickson] was good in the second half as well. I thought more than anything else, we stayed with them and we didn’t make the mental mistakes that hurt us in the first half.”

On fighting back in the second half:
“We were up by as many as 20 [points] and we cut it to four against a very good playoff team. Again, we are getting our young guys opportunities. Victor [Claver] and Will [Barton], they did their thing, Damian [Lillard], obviously. I thought fatigue hit some of the young guys early but you look at the things we did well and the things we improved on. Again, the second half, I thought we came out more aggressive and you take that away [from the game].”

Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

On decreasing the lead in the fourth quarter:
“It was fine in the second half. I thought we really gained a lot of confidence when we made some stops, got some steals and got out and got some easy buckets. I thought we got the lead down to I think two [points] at one point. We started to believe that we could win this game.”

On the loss:
“We had a couple of turnovers down the stretch that they capitalized on. It seemed like every time we got within [a few points], they hit a three or got a steal. They did a good job answering our calls.”

On the missing starters:
“I don’t think it took away [from our momentum] because it has been like this the last couple of games. It was tough because of how they guarded me. Without having any other starters out there, they paid a lot more attention to me. They trapped me or sent two guys to me; it was tough. Some guys aren’t used to being in certain positions. I was in a bad position a lot of times because of how [the Nuggets] played. I turned the ball over a couple of times.”

On Denver’s depth:
“It is tough because they set their starting lineup and they play well. Usually they bring in bench guys and good teams maintain that but there is always a drop off. [The bench] comes in and they keep running. The second team might have a little more energy and more speed. It is tough against a team like Denver in the altitude."

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Andre Iguodala turned in a complete performance in today’s win, registering 28 points, seven rebounds, nine assists, three steals and three blocks. It is the first time in his career that he has reached those numbers in a game. Additionally, it is the third time he has scored 28+ points as a Nugget.

• In his last five games, Iguodala is averaging 16.8 points, 9.4 assists, 8.2 rebounds and 2.00 steals.

• Evan Fournier scored 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting (3-of-5 3FG) while adding four boards and four assists in his career-high 35:38 minutes of play. It is a career-high in points for the rookie, besting his previous high of 19 on 3/29 vs. BKN.

• The Nuggets improve to 4-0 when Fournier plays 20+ minutes in a game. In those games, Fournier is averaging 19.5 points and 2.75 steals while shooting 28-of-44 (.636) from the field and 8-of-16 (.500) from beyond the arc.

• Ty Lawson scored 12 points and dished out 10 assists en route to his 9th double-double of the season (Nuggets 7-2). Additionally, it is his 24th career double-double and first since 3/7/13 vs. LAC.

• JaVale McGee recorded three blocks in tonight’s win. It is the 28th time this season he has had three-or-more blocks in a game. McGee has turned away three-or-more shots in three-straight games. Over those three games, he is averaging 3.67 blocks.

• Damian Lillard finished with 30 points, five rebounds and six assists tonight. It is the first time in his career that he reached those numbers in the same game. It is the fifth time in his career he has scored 30+ points in a game.

TEAM

• With tonight’s win, Denver has set a new NBA franchise record with 55 wins in a season as well as a new NBA franchise record 37 home wins. Additionally, they extended their NBA franchise record to 22 consecutive home wins.

• The Nuggets have now won 39 of their last 40 home games when scoring 100+ points and are 27-3 on the year when scoring 110+ points.

• The Nuggets have now won nine straight and 23 of their last 25 home games over Portland.

• Denver shot .531 (43-81 FG) from the field tonight and are now 14-0 at home when shooting 50%-or-better. Additionally, they have now won 48 straight home games when accomplishing this as well as 67 of their last 68 and 86 of their last 88 at home when doing so.

• The Nuggets shot a season-high .889 (24-27 FT) from the free throw line and are now 11-3 when shooting 80%-or-better from the line.

• Both Andre Iguodala (28 points) and Evan Fournier (24 points) scored 20+ tonight, moving Denver to 22-6 when two-or-more players score 20+. They have now won 18 straight when accomplishing this.

• The Nuggets 32 points off turnovers ties their season-high and they are now 38-7 on the year when recording more points off turnovers than their opponents.

• Denver handed out 30 assists tonight, moving to 13-0 and winning their 42nd straight game when recording 30+ helpers.

• The Nuggets recorded 15 steals tonight and are 32-7 when they post 10+ steals.

• Denver registered 28 fast break points, moving to 16-2 when scoring 25+ on the break. It’s their fourth straight with 20+.

• The Nuggets tallied their 34th game with 60+ points in the paint and are 24-10 in those games.

• The Trail Blazers 23 turnovers is a new Nuggets’ opponent season-high.