Not for the first time this season and in recent weeks, the Denver Nuggets owe a victory to Corey Brewer, this time pulling off three big plays in the final seconds of a big win, giving Andre Iguodala the chance to be a hero with the game winner, while everyone was still shell-shocked by Danilo Gallinari probably tearing his ACL, now lost for the season and possibly much longer.
As George Karl said after the win, it came with a little bit of sadness. Gallinari had only 16 minutes of air-time in the game before leaving in screams and faces that don’t leave much room for interpretation, while taking away the Nuggets’ second leading scorer. Their top scorer, Ty Lawson, is also out indefinitely with a tear in his bruised right heel.
And in all of that mess, it was Corey Brewer who stepped up. Playing 35 minutes off the bench, Brewer scored 23 points to lead the Nuggets to their 54th win of the season with some exceptional hustle and defense in the final seconds of the game. First it was that steal off Dirk Nowitzki to set up the final possession for the Nuggets, trailing 93-94. Kenneth Faried got to the free throw line, missing both shots. What does Brewer do? Grabs the offensive rebounds, off of which Andre Iguodala scores the game winning layup. To cap it off, Brewer blocked Anthony Morrow’s attempt at a desperate game winner for Dallas, who are almost officially eliminated from the postseason calculations.
While losing their talents and scoring, the Nuggets won with hustle, and their athletic advantages. It goes down to single, isolated plays, like Kenneth Faried saving a ball heading out of bounds after Koufos blocked Shawn Marion, leading to Andre Iguodala (him again) hitting a game-tying three pointer in the final minutes.
It’s also presented in the overall stats: Denver won the rebounding battle 50-41, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. It was the 27th time this season the Nuggets recorded 15+ offensive rebounds, the 2nd most in NBA this season.