After limiting his minutes early on, coach George Karl and the Denver Nuggets are reaping the benefits from letting the "Manimal" loose.
Kenneth Faried, who earned that nickname because of his physical and aggressive play, should be in for a tough interior battle Friday night when the Nuggets host a Utah Jazz team featuring two of the top eight rebounders in the Western Conference.
Faried played less than 20 minutes in each of the first two games before receiving a boost in playing time Saturday. In his three contests since, the second-year forward has averaged 17.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and shot 64.1 percent in more than 31 minutes per game.
Faried will try to keep that strong play going against Utah's formidable frontcourt. Al Jefferson is tied for sixth in the conference with 10.0 rebounds per game, while Paul Millsap is tied with Faried for eighth at 9.6.
Jefferson posted his third double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Jazz (2-3) snapped a three-game skid with a 95-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
"He's really putting forth an effort to help us on the defensive end and doing a nice job of waiting for his offense to come," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're going to need him to continue that."
The Nuggets (2-3) would like to see the same from Faried after he helped them to a second straight win Wednesday, 93-87 at Houston.
Faried, who holds the NCAA record for career rebounds with 1,673, had 16 points and 16 boards against the Rockets. With the 6-foot-8 Faried leading the way, the Nuggets rank third in the NBA with 49.4 rebounds per game.
"I think it has a lot to do with what we do in practice," Faried said. "Extra possessions are really important in this league."
Point guard Ty Lawson, who leads Denver with 15.6 points per game, scored 21 and added eight assists Wednesday.
Wilson Chandler, who has appeared in three games, isn't expected to play Friday as he continues to work his way back from hip surgery. The Nuggets could use Chandler's long-range scoring ability, as they've made just 29.2 percent of their 3-point attempts.
The Jazz are allowing opponents to make 37.2 percent of their 3s, but they're coming off their best defensive effort of the young season. Utah held Los Angeles to 33.8 percent shooting - the Lakers' worst effort in a regular-season game since Feb. 27, 2009 - and 4 for 23 from long distance.
"We were aggressive," Corbin said. "I thought for the most part we made them work for everything they got."
Utah has won two of three in Denver after losing seven of eight visits, including the playoffs.
"We have to continue to work hard and try to put a couple of wins together," Jefferson said. "Denver's a great team at home."