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Fournier supplies spark in Nuggets' victory

The SportsXchange

DENVER - Having Ty Lawson sitting on the bench in street clothes didn't bode well for the Denver Nuggets.

The team's best player missed his fourth game in the last five and might be out longer. So while they're fighting for homecourt advantage in the playoffs the Nuggets might have to do it without their motor.

For one night, they found a solution from an unexpected source.

Rookie Evan Fournier came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, and the Nuggets extended their home winning streak to 18 games with a 109-87 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.

Fournier, a rookie, rewarded the faith the organization showed in him when it used a first-round pick on him last June. He had nine points in the second quarter to lead a game-changing surge.

"I was just trying to be aggressive because that's who I am," Fournier said. "I'm an aggressive player. When I just pass the ball I'm not the same player so I just try to play aggressive, play hard."

Fournier had played in just five of the previous 14 games, but he looked comfortable throughout the game Friday. He led the reserves, who outscored Brooklyn's bench 60-37.

He was on the floor in the second quarter when Denver outscored the Nets 29-15 to take a 55-38 halftime lead.

"He had a heck of a game, there's no doubt about it," Nets guard Deron Williams said. "No matter who checks in, you have to be ready to play them. He came out and played a great game."

Wilson Chandler had 16 points for Denver, which ended a two-game skid and stayed ahead of Memphis for the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

The Nuggets are now 33-3 at home and need three more wins to break the franchise record for home wins in a season. They are one win away from tying the longest home winning streak in club history.

"The way we play in this building, and with the altitude, nobody can stop us," Fournier said.

Brooklyn couldn't. The Nets fell three-and-a-half games behind New York in the Atlantic Division despite 19 points from Williams and 15 points and 16 rebounds by Reggie Evans.

"We didn't play as well as we've been playing, but Denver had a lot to do with that," Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "If you're going to play a team this good in their building we need to do a better job than we did tonight."

The Nuggets might have to get used to life without Lawson, who was diagnosed with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot Thursday. Lawson missed three games with a strained heel before playing Wednesday, but he was hobbled in 19 minutes.

Denver rarely misses a beat with veteran Andre Miller running the offense, but he is the only true points guard still healthy. Fournier might have allayed any anxiety among the Nuggets organization and fans with Friday's performance.

"It's tough, but I think Evan has all the cards to play that way," Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari said. "He has the confidence to come out and play that way. We knew he would be ready to play this game."

The Nets were ready at the start, but a poor second quarter prevented them from clinching a winning record on this eight-game road trip. Brooklyn won four of its first five heading into Denver, with games against Utah and Cleveland left before heading home.

"They came out and put a beating on us from the jump," Williams said. "We were close at the end of the first, but after that it wasn't really close after that."

The Nets tried to get back into it, cutting a 22-point deficit to 12 on a Brook Lopez hook shot with 9:40 left. But Denver went on an 11-2 run to put it away.

The Nets hurt themselves by going 18-for-36 from the line and committing 21 turnovers.

"Free throws just killed us," Carlesimo said. "When you're trying to claw back in and you miss half your free throws or more it's very difficult."

NOTES: The Nets were without Joe Johnson for the third straight game. Johnson is out with a bruised right quad. ... With Lawson possibly missing several games, Nuggets coach George Karl will be forced to be creative with his lineups. Denver could utilize a bigger lineup from time to time with Anthony Randolph along with Chandler in the frontcourt with Kosta Koufos or JaVale McGee. "I could play really big for a period of time, with A.I. (Andre Iguodala) and Corey (Brewer) in the backcourt," Karl said. "You're athletic, you can run, you can do some things defensively." Karl added he's comfortable with the team he has going forward even if Lawson is out for a while. "I think we've got to stay with the crew we've got unless (John) Stockton wants to come out of retirement," he said. ... The Nets' 20 road wins entering Friday tied a franchise record set in 2005-06.
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