The Denver Nuggets are losing key players at a rapid pace, and they aim to overcome the latest blow when they host the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
Will Barton went down with a hamstring injury in the opening minute of Friday’s 118-97 loss to the host Golden State Warriors. Barton is expected to undergo an MRI exam on Saturday to determine the severity.
Barton’s injury comes on the heels of injuries to guards Jamal Murray (season-ending ACL) and Monte Morris (hamstring).
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he is concerned about the attrition but isn’t interested in having anyone feel sorry for his team.
“All you guys are fishing for ‘we lost this game because of Will’s injury,’ ” Malone said afterward. “Don’t make that excuse for us. Will Barton went down. He’s hurt, and we feel for him. But we all get paid on the 1st and 15th. Do your job. We didn’t do our job tonight. I didn’t, the players didn’t and it’s unacceptable.”
The setback was just the third in the past 15 games for Denver (38-21), which resides in fourth place in the Western Conference.
The loss of Murray has led to opinions that the Nuggets have little chance of returning to the Western Conference finals.
Malone said there has been no drop-off in the belief that the squad again can make a deep postseason run.
“It’s been our identity in the six years I’ve been here,” Malone said. “You’re going to face adversity, injuries are going to happen. How do you handle that? Do you waste time making excuses? Did I go to our team and say, ‘Well, Jamal is out for the season, so our goals have changed?’ No. It may be harder to attain those goals, but our goals are still the same.”
Houston (15-45) continues to struggle; the Rockets’ latest loss was 109-104 to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
The setback was the eighth in the past nine games and 35th in the past 39 for the team with the worst record in the NBA.
“No matter what our record says, it’s still the game of basketball,” point guard John Wall said afterward. “We’ve got some veterans and some young guys, and no matter what’s going on, you never want to have any quit in you. There’s always something to play for.”
Wall is expected to be rested Saturday on the second end of a back-to-back. He had 27 points and 13 assists against the Clippers.
Also, the availability of standout forward Christian Wood (24 points, 19 rebounds on Friday) is in question, according to coach Stephen Silas. Wood has been bothered by an ankle injury.
“We’re very, very banged up going into (Saturday’s) game,” Silas said after the loss to the Clippers. “I’m not sure what it’s going to look like at this point. Those guys fought hard. I knew Christian — he’s been doing treatment nonstop, and the wear of game after game after game has been bothering him.”
Houston forward Kelly Olynyk contributed 23 points and 10 rebounds on Friday. Yet it was another night of distress for the Rockets even though they held Los Angeles to 11 points in the third quarter.
The Nuggets are 2-0 against the Rockets this season, with the victories coming by an average of 21 points.
–Field Level Media