Afflalo sits out first game of Nuggets-Thunder series
OKLAHOMA CITY - Arron Afflalo’s desire to help his team – combined with his disdain for sitting on the sideline – probably worked against him in the final month of the regular season.
After aggravating his strained left hamstring three times down the stretch, the Nuggets shooting guard was inactive as Denver opened the playoffs Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“The body needs time to heal,” Afflalo said. “I fault myself for not giving it the proper time initially, but it’s tough for me to stay off the basketball court. It was a learning experience and I’m going to do what I have to do to get back (soon).”
Afflalo was one of Denver’s most consistent players, averaging 12.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while playing strong perimeter defense before his injury on March 5. He missed 13 of the season’s final 18 games, but the Nuggets were able to go 10-3 in his absence.
“Of course I would love to play; it’s frustrating being injured at this time of the year,” Afflalo said. “The last month of the year was such a great opportunity for myself and for the team. I think the guys will take care of business and I’ll get the rest I need.”
The Nuggets and Thunder have two days off between Games 1 and 2 and two more between Games 2 and 3. Given his experience with the injury so far, Afflalo isn’t speculating on when he will be able to return.
In the meantime, he will take mental notes on the Thunder and provide help for his teammates as they prepare for what figures to be a long, grueling series.
“I won’t just sit there and be a fan,” Afflalo said. “I’ll be encouraging to my teammates, keep a good positive vibe a good spirit around the bench. And also sit there and learn, as I’ve been doing for the past month and a half.”
The Nuggets could have used Afflalo’s two-way game in a 107-103 loss in the series opener. Denver made just 4-of-16 three-pointers and could not contain Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who combined for 72 points.
“With Arron back, you have a guy that can really defend the ball and disrupt those guys,” Nuggets point guard Raymond Felton said. “But the way those guys shot the ball, I don’t think Arron could’ve done anything either. Those guys had a great shooting night. I hope they don’t shoot that well these next six games.”
Wilson Chandler started in Afflalo’s place, along with point guard Ty Lawson, small forward Danilo Gallinari, power forward Kenyon Martin and center Nene.
It was a winning combination early as the Nuggets made their first eight shots and built a 13-point lead before coach George Karl made his first substitution.
“It was a really good game, a fun game,” said Gallinari, who finished with 18 points in his first career playoff game. “We all had fun. I think you guys who saw the game had fun, too. It was a great game, a close game until the end.”