Take that headline however you like it given last night's results. The Nuggets lose another key player and somehow gut out another victory against a desperate Mavericks team on the strength of their bench.
At a time in the season when nearly every NBA team is dealing with injuries, fatigue, and general malaise, many stumble down the stretch and end up costing themselves not only momentum but potentially playoff seeding. Some of us expected that with Ty going down, the Nuggets were going to struggle mightily to retain their home court advantage and the third seed in the playoffs down the stretch. While Evan Fournier's solid play has been a bright spot, the Nuggets will now be lacking both of their leading scorers for a significant period of time.
Last night, Danilo Gallinari injured his left knee when his leg awkwardly twisted on a strong drive to the paint. For those of you who aren't squeamish and want to watch how it happened, here's the video:
Ugly. Gallo clearly couldn't put any weight on the leg and had to be wheeled off the court. I am hoping that it doesn't turn out to be severe, but it's pretty apparent from Gallinari's initial reaction that he will miss a significant period of time. He will have an MRI this morning.
Even with the injury to Gallinari, Evan Fournier's excellent play has been a big bright spot for this team. I will admit that when I heard that Ty Lawson's had a completely torn plantar fascia - further compounded by Julyan Stone's sprained MCL - I was feeling pretty glum. Lawson had turned his game around from earlier in the season, Julyan Stone had shown that he was capable of playing quality backup minutes, and now all of a sudden, the Nuggets were without both of them. Even with all their depth, losing two point guards looked to become a huge problem for this Nuggets team. Andre Miller would now be running the show for the foreseeable future, and the Nuggets were faced with some unappealing choices:
1. Run Andre Miller out there for 30+ minutes per game as the starting point (as we saw against the 76ers, Kings, and Hornets).
3. Give Evan Fournier, a largely untested, 20-year old rookie, big minutes handling the ball in critical games for the Nuggets - and close your eyes.
After a few games experimenting with options 1) and 2), Karl went against all his (usual) coaching instincts in putting a rookie player into a pressure situation with option 3). Yet in his allotted time, Fournier's proven that he has the ability to fill in for Ty - and then some. Against two quality playoff teams in the Nets and Jazz, he scored 37 points on 13-18 shooting, heisted 5 steals, nabbed 4 rebounds and dished 4 assists in 42 minutes played - while committing only a single turnover. He was clearly fatigued on his first NBA back-to-back game against the Mavs, but still provided valuable minutes at the point and sparked runs at multiple points in the game.
While some may again feel that this was Evan again "hitting a home run", two straight games against tough competition, pouring in points while handling the ball for significant minutes and not committing significant mistakes - suggests something more than just a Carlos Gonzalez dinger.
Fournier's emerged as a legitimate option as a "combo guard" (Karl himself won't call him a point guard), and it couldn't have happened at a better time for this team. Between Miller, Iguodala and Fournier, the Nuggets are able to at least provide an approximation of Ty's talent at the point. Yet when Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari return, I can only hope that Karl figures out a way to give Evan some minutes on the floor outside of garbage time. He's earned it.
Get well soon, Gallo.
Corey Brewer talks March Madness and why he's always smiling - Corey loves that he's able to play a game that he loves for a living.
Danilo's "Italian Celebration" getting more recognition - It's not just Denver fans that appreciate the camaraderie this team has developed. Yahoo's Dan Devine has an array of gushing praise for our boys in blue (and gold).
Andre Miller tosses 65-foot alley-oop to Faried - Seriously, if you didn't catch this play, you should. For all his faults on the defensive end, Andre is and will remain the best lob passer the NBA has ever seen.