By the long view, the Denver Nuggets had a very bad Thursday night. In the second quarter of their game against the Dallas Mavericks, forward Danilo Gallinari went down with a likely ACL tear in his left knee. Along with the absence of Ty Lawson, the loss of Gallinari puts a serious damper on the Nuggets' attempts to make noise in the playoffs and raises new questions about their plans for next season. A team that finished off a 15-game winning streak at the end of March now looks in much worse shape.
Give Andre Iguodala some credit, then, for helping to salvage the night. With the Mavs up 94-93 and 7.7 seconds left in regulation, Iguodala took the inbounds pass and immediately darted toward the basket for a potential game-winner. Vince Carter played solid defense to make things difficult, but Iguodala managed to use his strength and speed to create enough space to put up a shot with his left hand. It went off the back rim and in, Corey Brewer blocked Anthony Morrow's 3-pointer after the ensuing timeout, and the Nuggets came away with the 95-94 win.
Iguodala's shot didn't make Denver's problems disappear, but it does suggest that the team isn't without options with Lawson and Gallinari out. During his long tenure in Philadelphia, Iguodala was often criticized for not being a good enough offensive player to take over in crunch time. In Denver, he's been able to succeed in part because he can focus on what he does well — namely, playing elite defense and taking advantage of scoring opportunities when they arise. Oh, and his 3 for 13 shooting night against the Mavericks doesn't exactly inspire confidence, game-winner exempted.
Yet, while Iguodala isn't a go-to scorer, he's still someone who's been asked to play that role in the past and can take on a bigger offensive burden if necessary.
Part of the benefit of being a deep team like the Nuggets is that different players can step up on different nights — there's no need to depend on two or three players every night. Even if the Nuggets have lost two players near the top of their loose hierarchy, they know that their remaining options have at least played to that necessary level on several occasions. In essence, they'll now ask those players to make their high-level performances more regular occurrences. It's a serious challenge, but it's one the Nuggets need to meet to succeed.
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