Nuggets return from break, prepare for rematch with Boston

Celtics visit Pepsi Center nine days after surviving 3OT thriller against Denver
by Aaron Lopez

After four road games in five nights and injury/infection afflicting two of their top wing players, the Denver Nuggets were in need of a break.

Four days off certainly helped.

The Nuggets returned to Pepsi Center for an evening practice Monday as they prepared to start their post-All-Star break schedule at home Tuesday against the Boston Celtics (7 p.m., Altitude, NBA TV).

“I think the break always comes at a good time for anybody that’s been in the league a while,” Denver coach George Karl said. “Even though it’s only three or four days, it’s amazing how refreshed you feel and how much more energized you are.”

Denver (33-21) played the final two games of its road trip without starting forward Danilo Gallinari and starting guard/forward Andre Iguodala. Gallinari was out with a sinus infection, while Iguodala was sidelined with a neck strain.

Both players practiced Monday and are expected to play Tuesday against the Celtics. Iguodala left in the third quarter of Denver’s triple-overtime at Boston on Feb. 10 and missed the remainder of the trip.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Gallinari said. “It was a good practice and we’re going to be focused on the (Boston) game. We played against them 10 days ago and we had a chance to win the game. We have to make sure we’re ready to play.”

Iguodala said he experienced stiffness in his neck upon waking up from his pregame nap in Boston. It got worse early in the game and ultimately kept him on the bench as the Nuggets lost a heartbreaker at TD Garden.

The defeat snapped Denver’s season-best nine-game winning streak. The Nuggets then lost by a point in Toronto two nights later and ran out of gas against the Brooklyn Nets in the pre-break finale.

“I’m just looking forward to getting back on track,” Iguodala said. “I don’t worry about wins and losses. I just feel like we need to play good solid basketball. If we continue to improve, everything will take care of itself.”

While his ailing teammates recuperated, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried was busy during All-Star weekend in Houston.

Faried was named MVP of the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge after scoring 40 points and grabbing 10 rebounds on Friday night. He then competed in the Sprite Slam Dunk competition on Saturday but narrowly missed advancing to the final round.

“I’m glad Kenneth got the spotlight,” Karl said. “I think it’s good for him. I’m happy for him. I kind of had a feeling he would play well in the game because he would play harder than everybody else and he would be rewarded because of it.”

Faried said he had never scored 30 points at any level, let alone 40. The performance gave him a confidence boost heading into the final two months of the regular season.

“It was just a fun weekend overall,” he said. “It wasn’t any intention to try and win the MVP or anything like that. I wanted to win the dunk contest but I just fell short on that. I had fun and enjoyed myself.”

In addition to meeting iconic big men Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, Faried helped build a playground as part of an NBA Cares event and served as an honorary coach for the Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game.

“It was nice coaching,” he said. “It was fun to watch them really enjoy the game. I saw the passion in their eyes. They really do love the game and they had fun doing it.”

Faried said he sees similar characteristics in his teammates as the Nuggets prepare to battle for home-court advantage in the Western Conference. They are 1.5 games behind No. 4 Memphis and five games behind the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.

“I look at these guys and look at their eyes and their heart and see they’re passionate about what we want to do as a team and organization,” Faried said. “We have to focus right now on grinding the rest of the season out.”


WHEN: 7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude, NBA TV; 104.3 FM, AM-950


F Danilo Gallinari
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Ty Lawson

F Paul Pierce
F Brandon Bass
C Kevin Garnett
G Courtney Lee
G Avery Bradley

Wilson Chandler (groin) is probable; Andre Iguodala (neck) is day-to-day.
BOSTON: Rajon Rondo (knee), Jared Sullinger (back) and Leandro Barbosa (knee) are out.

The Celtics have won 13 of the last 15 games vs. Denver in Boston ... The Nuggets have won seven of the last eight games against the Celtics in Denver, however the one loss  came on 2/23/09 at the Pepsi Center by 38 points (114-76) ... That 38-point loss on 2/23/09 tied the largest margin of defeat ever for the Nuggets at the hands of the Celtics, as well as the third worst home loss in team history ... This series has been evenly matched in recent years, with the overall series at 10-9 in favor of Denver since the 2002- 03 season ... 2010-11 marked the sixth time in seven years the season series was tied between these teams (1-1) ... Denver’s 1-0 sweep in 2011-12 was the first Nuggets sweep since 2004-05 and just the third all-time ... Paul Pierce owns the highest scoring game by a Celtic vs. the Nuggets in team history (45 points at Boston on 1/24/03).