How Denver Nuggets Can Survive Danilo Gallinari's Injury
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor
After a slow start, the Nuggets blasted the Houston Rockets Saturday night, 132-114. There were some new wrinkles to the lineup and rotation, but the overall theme stayed the same: run and attack.
The Nuggets are also still without their starting point guard and leading scorer Ty Lawson, although that didn't stop Andre Iguodala from racking up 18 points, seven rebounds and a season-high 14 assists. He also made an early statement by scoring nine points and dishing out five assists in the first quarter.
Houston isn't exactly a solid defensive team, giving up 102.7 points per game (28th in NBA). Still, Iguodala's aggressive play and getting others involved was an excellent sign for head coach George Karl without his two leading scorers.
As pointed out by the Associated Press on ESPN.com, Karl was somewhat amazed with his club's performance Saturday.
"It does a little bit," Karl conceded when asked if the team's showing without Gallinari and Lawson surprised him. "But my team has been very good about meeting challenges, both schedule-wise and injury-wise and perseverance-wise, and they have a competitive spirit that for a young team is pretty strong."
An additional great sign from Iguodala has been shots in the clutch.
With Denver trying to get over the hump after losing Gallinari against Dallas, Iguodala made the game-winning layup with 2.8 seconds remaining. Iguodala was also responsible for the game-winning three-pointer at Chicago on March 18.
With Gallinari out and Lawson still recovering, Iguodala's diverse scoring ability will be crucial in close games.
Another person who met the challenge against Houston was Wilson Chandler, making just his fourth appearance in the starting lineup this year. He dropped 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with six rebounds. Furthermore, he was plus-21, the best of all the Nuggets' starters.
Whether he's playing the sixth-man role or in the starting lineup, Chandler keeps dealing the damage both inside and outside.
Then there's the emergence of Evan Fournier.
At first it looked like it may have been beginner's luck, but it's now looking like a breakout moment for the 20th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. In three of his last four games, Fournier has scored at least 17 points on 50 percent shooting or better.
For those who are still unfamiliar with the rookie, Fournier's highlights against the Brooklyn Nets show what kind of scoring versatility he brings to the hardwood.
The Nuggets were already limited in three-point shooting before Gallinari's injury, but Fournier can light it up from behind the arc. With the exception of JaVale McGee's 1-of-1 from deep this year, Fournier leads the Nuggets with a 43.2 three-point percentage.
More importantly, he fits the mentality of the Nuggets by attacking the rim in transition, while having the strength to finish in traffic as well.
Also playing 22 minutes (his second most this season) against Houston was Anthony Randolph.
Randolph has demonstrated in his few opportunities that he's ready to go. In the three games he's played over 20 minutes, Randolph has scored 37 points on 16-of-29 shooting to go with 10 steals.
In his highlights against the Toronto Raptors on February 12, Randolph showcases his ability to find the holes in the defense and finish in the paint.
Essentially, the team chemistry is at a high level, and everyone on Denver continues to step up when necessary.
The fact that the Nuggets don't have to rely on one or two specific scorers is a bonus for them in the long run. Combining the deep roster and that everyone is a multi-threat player in some form makes Denver one of the toughest outs in the West.
The best way for the Nuggets to survive without Gallinari is to continue playing Denver Nuggets basketball: force turnovers, establish the transition game, score inside, get to the free-throw line, share the rock and rebound.
Not that it's even necessary to begin with, but making any kind of drastic changes in philosophy would be a huge mistake this late in the year.
Denver has five games remaining in the regular season, with its biggest game up next against the Western Conference first-place San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night. If the Nuggets overcome the Spurs, they will have reminded everyone that they are still serious contenders to make the NBA Finals.
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