Three weeks ago, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl marveled at his team’s depth, suggesting, ”we can even sustain injuries and be OK.”
The Nuggets have been testing that theory ever since.
First, point guard Ty Lawson went down with a painful right heel injury. Then, forward Danilo Gallinari was lost for the season with a torn left ACL, and on Sunday top rebounder Kenneth Faried sprained his left ankle and needed his teammates’ help leaving the court.
X-rays were negative and an MRI on Monday confirmed there were no fractures but a sprain of the ”anterior talofibular” ligament.
Faried didn’t make the Nuggets’ trip to Milwaukee and he won’t play in the regular-season finale against Phoenix on Wednesday, either. He’ll be listed as day to day when the first round of the playoffs begins next weekend.
This counts as very good news for the suddenly injury-prone Nuggets, who were remarkably healthy until their recent run of bad luck. Although Lawson returned to action Friday after missing eight games, Gallinari is done for the year.
Faried, who is averaging 11.5 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds and has 31 double-doubles, initially feared he had a more serious injury, too.
He was hurt Sunday when he stepped on the foot of Portland Trail Blazers rookie Will Barton while driving for a layup.
”I felt like we were snakebit or bad luck had come our way, our karma had turned the wrong way,” Karl said. ”I kind of saw it and then when he stayed down, I was worried.”
Karl said he usually gauges the seriousness of an injury by looking at the player’s face, but Faried covered his face while writing in pain on the hardwood and then put a towel over his head when he was helped from the court and then wheeled to the locker room for X-rays.
Faried said he had never felt such pain and initially feared a more serious injury but vowed to play in the playoffs, telling the team’s website, ”I know I will be out there. I don’t care what’s going on. If I can walk, I can play.”
Lawson, who has a torn plantar fascia in his right heel, logged 31 minutes Sunday after playing 20 minutes at Dallas on Friday and said, ”I really don’t feel any more pain. I’ve been out for two weeks, so it’s about that time. I just have to get over it.”
Karl said he was hoping to play Lawson 25 minutes in each of the Nuggets’ last two games, at Milwaukee on Monday night and against Phoenix on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, where Denver is an NBA-best 37-3 with 22 straight wins.
The Nuggets entered the week needing one more win to secure homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Although they’re making their 10th straight trip to the postseason, they’ve only had homecourt advantage in the first round twice in the last decade.
In 2008-09, they capitalized on the home court to beat New Orleans and then Dallas before losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. The following year, the Nuggets nose-dived after Karl was diagnosed with throat cancer at midseason and their tailspin ended with a first-round loss to Utah despite starting the series at home.