Timofey Mozgov nearly carries Nuggets past Memphis

Denver center matches career-high with 23 points in 94-92 loss
by Aaron Lopez

After putting in his usual work in the low post, Timofey Mozgov often spends time after practice extending his shooting range.

He starts with 15- to 18-foot shots and gradually moves behind the 3-point line.

Because of Mozgov’s diligence – and improving accuracy – in practice, Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw is starting to gain more trust in the 7-foot-1 center’s ability to knock down a perimeter shot.

That confidence was evident in the final seconds of Denver’s 94-92 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.

Needing a 3-pointer to tie, Shaw initially drew up a play designed to get an open look for guards Aaron Brooks, Randy Foye or Ty Lawson. He was forced to change the call after the Grizzlies deflected the inbounds pass, prompting another dead ball.

“We kind of just improvised,” Shaw said.

Under the revised plan, the Nuggets ran a spread formation with four players between the 3-point line and the half-court circle. They simultaneously broke toward the basket, leaving Mozgov wide open on the right wing.

He made his first career 3-pointer on a similar play last week in San Antonio.

“We know I can make a 3-pointer,” Mozgov said. “Maybe not like the best, but I can.”

Mozgov’s attempt Monday night hit the front rim, but the rebound bounced straight into his hands near the free throw line. Forced to make a quick decision, he went in for a dunk with 1.9 seconds remaining.

“I was thinking I had time,” Mozgov said. “I didn't see anybody open. I just tried to get a quick two points. I need to see the video. Maybe it was my mistake and somebody was open. Maybe I need to take another dribble step back and shoot it, but I don't think so.”

Denver was forced to foul, and Courtney Lee missed his second free-throw attempt intentionally to run out the final seven-tenths of a second.

Other than the final sequence, it was an impressive night for Mozgov. He matched his career-high with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and also grabbed 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.

Over the past eight games, Mozgov is averaging 11.8 points and 8.3 rebounds.

“We’ve seen Timo grow this year,” Shaw said. “A big part of that is just having the opportunity to get out there on the floor and play and get experience.”

That growth is illustrated by his desire to make adjustments from game to game.

After struggling to finish around the basket last week against the San Antonio Spurs, Mozgov studied video and worked on attacking the rim with two hands, instead of one.

The change paid dividends against the Grizzlies as he posterized Ed Davis in the paint and converted easy dunks after beating Memphis center Marc Gasol in transition.

“He did a great job running the floor and using his speed,” Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur said. “He played well.”