DENVER, Colo. — Life’s full of firsts for Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried these days.
In Denver’s 101-94 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday, Faried recorded his first 20-20 game — grabbing 21 rebounds to go with 24 points. It came two nights after coach Brian Shaw drew up the final play for Faried in a one-point win at Golden State. Not only was that Faried’s first game-winning shot, it was the first time a coach had designed the last shot specifically for him.
For the third-year forward, there’s much to gain.
“(I’m) opening a lot of people’s eyes,” Faried said. “It’s basically, ‘Here Kenneth, it’s your team, here’s the ball, do what you have to to bring us to victory.’ … I’m ecstatic about it.”
Faried has been on a tear of late. Entering Saturday, he had averaged 19.7 points and 10.5 rebounds since March 1. He has recorded double-doubles in 12 of Denver’s last 20.
“I’m not doing much,” Faried said. “I’m just playing basketball and having a lot of fun out there.”
Said Shaw: “I’m putting him in situations to see how he’s going to handle them, so that he can grow and become more confident in those situations. For the most part, he’s handling it well.
“We’re just seeing him improve before our eyes.”
Saturday’s win was Denver’s (36-44) third straight. Guards Randy Foye scored 26 points and Evan Fournier had 23 off the bench.
Utah (24-56) lost for the 13th time in its past 14 road games, and for the 20th time in its past 23 overall. Center Enes Kanter scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Jazz. Guard Gordon Hayward finished with 23 points. He had nine points before the game was 90 seconds old.
“I can’t question guys’ efforts,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. “They’re trying hard. We’re just making mistakes that cost us ball games down the stretch.”
Said guard Trey Burke: “It’s not like we’re out there for 48 minutes not competing. I just think (Denver) wanted it more at the end.”
Neither team looked inspired in an ugly first half that ended with Utah leading 44-34. It was Denver’s smallest output for a half this season, featuring only 13 made field goals, 32.5 percent shooting and 13 turnovers.
In the second half, Denver had 22 field goals on 55 percent shooting, and only five turnovers. Foye and Fournier hit successive 3-pointers to cap a 24-10 run that put the Nuggets ahead 90-82 with 3:08 to play.
Denver is headed to the lottery after making the playoffs each of the past 10 years. But the Nuggets say there’s still a purpose to their late-season success.
“Coach is preaching our season for next year starts now,” Foye said. “Not in the form of wins or losses, but the terminology and the way we’re supposed to (play) on defense, the things we want to accomplish on offense, they start now. So make sure we just roll right into it because nothing is going to change.
“We want to learn as much as we can. Even though we’re not in the playoffs, there are teaching points in every single game.
NOTES: The Nuggets received some extra good news Saturday. Atlanta’s victory over Miami eliminated New York from playoff contention. Denver has its own and New York’s 2014 first-round picks, but the Nuggets must give Orlando the lesser selection as a result of an earlier trade. … Jazz F Marvin Williams (left knee bone bruise) did not travel to Denver and missed his second straight game. Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said there’s no timetable for Williams’ return. “We have to watch him because he will try and push himself through,” Corbin said, “and we have to make sure we’re doing the right thing by him.” … Denver G Ty Lawson (left ankle sprain) missed his fourth straight game. Nuggets F Wilson Chandler (left groin strain) played after missing the previous 10. Nuggets F Darrell Arthur played two minutes before leaving with a left knee strain. He’s day-to-day. And Denver forward Anthony Randolph left the team right before game time to be with his fiance, whose water broke. … Timofey Mozgov’s 29-rebound performance Thursday at Golden State prompted questions about whether C JaVale McGee can reclaim his starting spot in Denver next season. “I told JaVale, ‘Timo is coming for you,'” Shaw said. “‘You being out has given him an opportunity to play and show what he can do, so it’s not a given anything will be handed to you when you come back.'” McGee had season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left leg in February. He played the first five games before the fracture was diagnosed.
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