Will Barton put the hood up on his sweatshirt and faced reporters Wednesday night, clearly drained after playing through a high fever and other flu-like symptoms in a 134-111 home win against Phoenix.
By Friday morning, Barton’s jovial energy had largely returned. After a day of rest, drinking liquids and taking medication, Barton went through shootaround getting ready for tonight’s game against Utah and said he was feeling “much better.” He was not listed on Denver’s most recent injury report released Thursday evening.
Barton scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting in 20 minutes against Phoenix, but was part of a second-half bench effort that Nuggets coach Michael Malone called “phenomenal” as Denver pulled away to victory. Those reserves scored 38 of the Nuggets’ 73 second-half points as Malone began his plan to “trust” those non-starters with more minutes.
Lyles: facing Jazz feels ‘normal.’ Before every Nuggets-Jazz game, Lyles has been peppered with questions about his time in Utah and the trade that sent him to division-rival Denver.
That’s typical in the first season following such a move. But Lyles said matching up against the Jazz now feels “normal.”
“I don’t carry grudges with me,” Lyle said. “It’s fine. It’s a business. I realized that at an early stage in my career, and I’m fine with that. I’m just looking forward to my future and what I have to do.”
Also becoming normal for Lyles? Strong performances as the first post player off the bench, helping Denver stay above .500 and in the Western Conference playoff picture while all-star power forward Paul Millsap recovers from wrist surgery. Lyles has averaged 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds over his previous 12 games, including 16 points and eight boards in last week’s home win over Utah.
“My confidence is at an all-time high right now,” Lyles said. “(I have) just comfortability with things within the team and just the freedom to go out there and play like I need to play.”
Footnote. Friday’s matchup will mark an early end to Denver’s four-game regular-season series with the Jazz. Malone stressed the importance of evening the series 2-2 because head-to-head and division records are used as tiebreakers for playoff seeding. After losing twice by double digits in Salt Lake City, Denver blasted the Jazz 107-83 at Pepsi Center on Dec. 26.
“Anytime you beat a team, they’re gonna come back and want revenge,” Barton said. “So we’ve got to be ready for them and be ready for their energy and being in attack mode.”
The Nuggets have played fellow Northwest opponents Minnesota (0-2), Oklahoma City (1-1) and Portland (1-1) twice apiece.
Denver oddly finishes up with Utah before playing Western Conference opponents San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time. The Nuggets have also already finished their season series against New Orleans (won 2-1) and Brooklyn (won 2-0).