Kosta Koufos with a new career high tonight. - USA TODAY Sports
The Nuggets evened the season series against the Suns 1-1 and Denver has now defeated every Western Conference team at least once.
"Kosta has a great understanding of how to get underneath a defense when the defense makes mistakes," said George Karl. "He's ready to get a pass and he hustles and gets hustle rebounds. I think he and JaVale give us two guys that can have big nights."
Kosta Koufos set a new career high with 22 points tonight on 10-11 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds (4 offensive). He was all over the place and was on the receiving end of "hockey assist" behind the back pass from Danilo Gallinari to Andre Iguodala (who went behind the back) to Koufos for the layup.
"He played well today," said Ty Lawson. "He had 22 and 10; it was huge for his confidence and for us going forward."
The Nuggets got their ninth win in a row and now have a chance to extend that streak to 10, a goal George Karl would very much like to reach - not only because it would mean a lot to the team, but because it would come against the New York Knicks, as well.
"I'd like to get to 11; this would be a great week if we can get to 11 wins. It's self-explanatory, these games are going to have some extra meaning," said Karl. "Emotionally on Wednesday and in the standings on Friday."
The game tonight was easily one that Denver could have looked ahead on, but Lawson credited his teammates with paying attention to detail and for coming out strong in the second half.
"It felt good, it's always good to get a win," said Corey Brewer. "We started off a little slow in the first half, but the second half we got it going."
Brewer started off a little slow himself with a 2-6 shooting performace for 7 points in the first half. He added 10 points on 5-10 shooting in the second half to lead the Nuggets on the night with shots attempted (7-16) - the next closest was Lawson who was 8-13 on the night (19 points and 6 assists).
The Suns played well for three quarters. At the half it was 53-50 Denver and Marcus Morris, 10 points, and recently acquired (at the trade deadline from Toronto) Hamed Haddadi, 9 points, were keeping the Suns alive. The two combined for 10 points in the second half (a career high 13 points for Haddadi), as they gave way to Wesley Johnson, who had 12 points in the second half, and Luis Scola and Jared Dudley who each had 9 points in the in the final two quarters for the Suns.
Goran Dragic, a usual pest against Denver, was held to just 8 points on 3-9 shooting in 35 minutes of action (he was also a -14 while on the floor). Suns coach Lindsey Hunter was barking at the refs for not giving Dragic the calls he thought he should have as Dragic was encountering a lot of contact from the Nuggets.
Denver outscored the Suns 55-43 in the second half, including 28-19 in the fourth quarter. Gallo and Wilson Chandler each played just over 12 minutes in the second half and Karl actually replaced Gallo with Chandler late in the game to close things out. Chandler was having a more efficient night shooting as he was 5-7 vs. Gallo's 1-8, but both guys were hitting the boards (Chandler with 6 rebounds (1 offensive) and Gallo with 5 defensive boards). That's the luxury Karl has - he can sub out a guy on a cold night and replace him with somebody a little more on.
Kenneth Faried played 20 minutes on the night, but only seven of those came in the second half. He finished the night 4-9 from the floor for 10 points to go along with 9 rebounds, but didn't see a single minute in the fourth quarter (after going 3-4 from the field in the third). Karl said before the game that he'd let the players determine who he finished with, along with matchups, and tonight it was Koufos.
A very business like win for Denver. They could have come in with thoughts of the Knicks and Grizzlies too much on their mind and let this one get away, but they did not do that.
A nice win in Phoenix and back to Denver for the team and for me, too.
Views you can use:
Lots of Knicks talk after the game in the locker room ...
"It might be the most exciting game of the year," said Lawson. "It's going to be a fun game. The first one, after [Carmelo Anthony] got traded, he talked so much trash in New York. It's all fun, but I just can't wait - I'm really excited."
"I hope it's a celebration, but then when the games gets started - I hope they're [the crowd] supportive of us and crazy wild," said George Karl.
"The JaVale alley-oop might have been crazier, he tore the house down with that one," said Lawson. "Those are plays that we do almost every game, but that DeAndre Jordan dunk was crazy too."
McGee finished the night 4-9 from the floor for 8 points to go along with 5 rebounds (2 offensive) in about 18 minutes of action.
Lawson on the fact that I saw a ton of his jerseys in the Phoenix crowd tonight:
"I guess I'm playing a little bit better, getting a little more popular," said Lawson with a smile. "I mean, it's fun to see your jersey. When you grow up that's the things you want to see. I love it."
Kosta Koufos didn't much want to talk about himself, as usual, when I asked him about his career high he brushed the question off an talked more about the team and wanting to get the highest possible playoff seed.
Check out my Twitter for all sorts of pictures from the game last night: click here @Nate_Timmons