Danilo Gallinari had suffered through an inconsistent shooting touch early this season, but he got untracked to help Denver end the Memphis Grizzlies eight-game winning streak.
Gallinari scored a season-high 26 points, including a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, and the Nuggets handed the Grizzlies only their second loss of the season with a 97-92 victory Monday night.
Gallinari entered the game shooting 34 percent from the field and 21 percent from outside the arc. He finished the night 7 of 15 from the field and 2 of 6 from long range. Gallinaris late 3-pointer came as Memphis had surrendered a lead in the final minutes. The shot from the wing, set up by a pass from point guard Ty Lawson, put the Nuggets up 96-92.
I was just trying to be aggressive, Gallinari said. Thats what coach (George Karl) wants me to do in order to get to the free throw line. I was just trying to do that.
As for the 3-pointer that put the Grizzlies away, Gallinari said they ran a high pick-and-roll with him and Lawson, knowing the Grizzlies would have to pick one of them to guard. He was left open for the shot.
I wasnt thinking about the shot before I got the ball, Gallinari said. I was just reading the defense. The defense was not there. I was open, and when you are aggressive mentally, you dont think too much, you just follow your instinct. That was my thought.
JaVale McGee provided a second-half lift for Denver and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Kenneth Faried added 13 points and grabbed 13 boards to help the Nuggets outrebound Memphis 47-33.
We were missing a lot of shots, Karl said of his team shooting 44 percent (36 of 81) from the field. Kenneth is very confident there. Thats his NBA talent; thats his skill (rebounding). I think he was challenged by (Memphis power forward Zach) Randolph being such a great offensive rebounder.
Denver, which snapped a three-game skid, also won the battle in the paint 50-44 and outscored the Grizzlies in second-chance points 21-16. In addition to dominating inside, the Nuggets also pressured the Grizzlies early, forcing Memphis out of its regular pace.
That was a point of emphasis coach wanted me to do pick up the ball early and just pressure (Memphis point guard Mike Conley), said Lawson, who finished with nine points on 4 of 14 shooting. If Im not scoring or playing well on the offensive end, Ill pick it up on the defensive end.
The Nuggets handed the Grizzlies their first loss since dropping the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.
We didnt come out at the beginning with a great effort defensively or offensively, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. When you look at the rebounding, we got outrebounded by 14. We gave up 21 offensive rebounds, 20 second-chance points, and we shot 17 3s. Thats a recipe of getting beat, and we got beat.
Rudy Gay scored 22 points, Marc Gasol added 16, and Randolph had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis.
We have to play hard to win games, Gasol said. We are not that good to just come out and be casual, make a shot, dont run back and dont rebound because we are not that good.
The Nuggets closed the game on a 9-0 run, with Gallinari scoring six points in the final two minutes, including the 3-pointer, which was set up when he intercepted a pass by Gay on the Grizzlies end of the floor.
Gallinari connected on five of his first six shots and all four of his free throws in the first half to help the Nuggets carry a 52-49 lead into the break.
Gay led Memphis with 11 points at the half.
Neither team led by more than five in the opening two quarters, with eight lead changes and nine ties. There ended up being 12 ties and 12 lead changes.
Memphis opened the second half with a 12-4 run, but McGee had eight points in the frame to cut the Grizzlies advantage to 70-69 entering the fourth.
Denver would carry its rally into the final frame with eight consecutive points, including six by Faried. The two teams would continue exchanging leads throughout the fourth and still were tied at 87 with 3:35 left.
Memphis took a 92-88 lead on Randolphs tip-in with 2:14 left, but the Grizzlies didnt score again.
It was a nice recovery for the Nuggets, who were coming off a poor showing in a 126-100 loss at San Antonio on Thursday night.
We played our worst game of the year in San Antonio, Karl said. Our guys, most of the time, have showed a big heart. This was the first game on the road where I think we executed at a high level both offensively and defensively.
As for the impact of Gallinaris 3-pointer, Lawson added: Weve had a rough 10 games. For that shot to go in was big for us, for our morale. To get a big one like this is huge.