Two days after one of the worst performances of his young career, rookie Kenneth Faried put together his best one yet — and both came against the same team.
Faried had season highs of 27 points and 17 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets never trailed in their most lopsided win of the season, a 123-84 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
He rebounded from a one-point, four-rebound showing in Denver’s 112-97 loss at Golden State on Saturday in which his ragged defense also was factor in a 17-point, nine-rebound night by the Warriors’ David Lee. Forty-eight hours later, Lee was limited to 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting with three rebounds, shut down largely by Faried.
”I had one (point) and four (rebounds) last game, and that’s not my game at all,” Faried said. ”I’m a very energetic guy. I rebound the ball. I’m athletic and I can pretty much do things for this team to help them win. Last time I played them, I didn’t do any of that, so tonight I just wanted to make it my mission to stop David Lee and help my team win.”
Consider the mission accomplished.
”I thought it was probably his best defensive game against a really good player,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. ”Forty-eight hours ago we were miserable. I had no idea a game could be that much different, but Kenneth had a tremendous game.”
The 39-point margin exceeded Denver’s previous high of 29 points against Sacramento on Jan. 25, and coincided with the return of Danilo Gallinari. He helped pick up the offense by scoring 15 points in his first game since breaking his left thumb against Dallas on March 19.
”We got some confidence with Gallo back on the court and our playmaking seemed to have more of a flow to it,” Karl said.
The Nuggets matched their season high in points and beat the Warriors for the first time in three tries this season. They remained in eighth place in the Western Conference with nine games remaining. Denver is in a tight race with seventh-place Dallas, Phoenix, Utah, and Houston for the last two postseason spots in the conference.
”It was a good game for us because we lost to them two times pretty badly, so coming back tonight was very important for us,” Gallinari said.
Not so good for the Warriors, though.
”Got off to a bad start, had a bad middle, and finished the game poorly,” Lee said. ”They predicted they would bounce back after losing twice to us and have a good game. Unfortunately, they were correct.”
Arron Afflalo also had 15 points, and JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer each added 13 for Denver. Golden State was led by Klay Thompson and Nate Robinson with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Faried, a quick, powerful forward, put on a dazzling show. He scored on an array of moves, driving to the hoop for layups, putting in a couple of spectacular dunks off alley-oop passes and soaring through traffic to hit jumpers from up close.
He had a rim-rattling, two-handed dunk that brought a roar from the crowd and put the Nuggets up 80-50 with 5:05 left in the third period. When he went to the bench a minute later for a rest, the crowd showed its appreciation with a rousing ovation.
Gallinari soon added a 3-pointer and the Nuggets took an 83-50 lead into the fourth quarter. The Nuggets substituted freely the rest of the way but still wound up stretching their lead during the final period.
The Nuggets led by as many as 31 points in the first half and were in front 65-38 at the break after Faried grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in for a basket with 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
They gained command early by leaning on their transition game, running the floor relentlessly en route to a 37-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Faried was at the center of the flurry, scoring 11 points in the period, including a three-point play after throwing down a dunk around a pair of three-point plays by Afflalo.
”They came out like a team that was embarrassed last game on national TV, and we came out going through the motions,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. ”Good old-fashioned beat down.”
NOTES: Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler missed a fifth consecutive game because of a lingering groin strain. … The Warriors remain without Andrew Bogut (fractured left ankle) and Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle). … The Warriors’ 13 points in the first quarter was one over their season low for the period. … Faried’s previous career highs were 20 points March 5 against Sacramento and 16 rebounds against Boston on March 17. .. Denver had a 60-27 rebounding edge over Golden State. … The Nuggets also scored 123 points against New Jersey on Jan. 11.