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Mozgov follows plan of preparedness to help Nuggets

7-footer ready when called upon as Denver deals with frontcourt injuries

Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov has stayed ready despite limited playing time in season's first three months.
Doug Pensinger/NBAE/Getty Images

When everyone is healthy, depth can be a curse.

Finding enough minutes to keep everyone happy is an impossible task.

The Denver Nuggets knew that when they built their roster with a dozen rotation-ready players. They also knew that depth would be a valuable commodity when injuries inevitably cropped up during the season.

With forward Wilson Chandler and center JaVale McGee shelved by injuries Monday night, the Nuggets went to the supply closet and tapped into their enviable inventory of big men.

Timofey Mozgov, who had played more than 20 minutes just twice in Denver’s first 45 games, gave the Nuggets a much-needed lift in a 102-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers. The 7-footer scored 10 points and provided a defensive presence in the paint in 25 minutes of work.

“You stay ready every game,” Mozgov said. “It’s not easy but all I do is try to be ready and play hard on the court. Sometimes I have some mistakes. Sometimes I have good defense and bad defense. I just keep working hard. That’s it.”

That was the case again Tuesday as Mozgov was among the last two players off the practice court. He spent an extra half hour working on his mid-range shot and post moves with special assistant to the coaching staff Vance Walberg.

“He’s not been dealt a fair hand,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He’s played better than the minutes he gets. Unfortunately that happens in our game a little bit too much. Timo’s stayed strong. He’s been tremendous in practice. He’s professional. He probably works as hard as anybody on our team.”

The Nuggets (28-18) could need Mozgov’s services again Wednesday when they take on the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center.

While Chandler (groin strain) is probable, McGee is listed as questionable with left tibia irritation. An MRI on Tuesday confirmed that he does not have a stress fracture.

Based on his effectiveness against Indiana, Karl has no problem giving Mozgov more minutes if McGee needs a little more time to heal.

“I thought we played with confidence (against the Pacers),” Karl said. “Everybody sincerely felt Timo could do the job and he did, and we came out with a big win.”

After helping the Russian national team win the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, Mozgov entered training camp as Denver’s incumbent starting center.

Kosta Koufos, however, earned the starting assignment out of training camp and is enjoying the most productive season of his career, averaging 8.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.47 blocked shots – all career-highs.

McGee has played efficiently with Denver’s second unit, leaving Mozgov as a valuable insurance policy.

“Even before the season, I was trying to prepare myself for anything,” Mozgov said. “I prepared myself if I played (a lot), and I was prepared if I didn’t play. For me, it’s still hard, but I was ready.”

When Koufos was out due to illness on Dec. 5, Mozgov stepped into the starting lineup and grabbed 13 rebounds in 28 minutes. Until Monday, that was the last time he played at least 20 minutes.

“It is coach’s decision. I don’t want to complain,” Mozgov said. “Like I say, if you give me time, I will give you work.”


ROCKETS AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

F Danilo Gallinari
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Ty Lawson

HOUSTON
F Chandler Parsons
F Patrick Patterson
C Omer Asik
G James Harden
G Jeremy Lin

INJURY & ROSTER REPORT
DENVER:
Wilson Chandler (groin) is probable; JaVale McGee (tibia) is questionable.
HOUSTON:No injuries to report.

SERIES NOTES

The Rockets have played well in Denver in recent years, having gone 8-9 at the Pepsi Center since the 2002-03 season … Denver has gone just 9-14 in the last 23 road games against the Rockets since the 2001-02 season, but have won four straight in Houston … The Nuggets have struggled overall against the Rockets for the past two decades, having gone 34-57 (.374) vs. Houston since 1990-91 … Denver has played more overtime games against Houston than any other franchise in the NBA (12) … The Nuggets won the season series 3-1 in 2011-12, just the second season series win against Houston since 2000-01 (3-1) and only the third since 1993-94 (3-2) … The Rockets and Nuggets have split the season series six times in the last 13 years.