Denver Nuggets’ center Timofey Mozgov has unfortunately been known throughout his career as the guy who got emphatically posterized by Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, but his recent emergence has trumped that. Mozgov has seen a boost in playing time for the Nuggets amidst a slew of injuries to their front line, and heads are starting to turn. Mozgov had his way with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night to the tune of 23 points and a jaw-dropping 29 rebounds, both career highs, with the latter being an NBA season high for any player.
With the Nuggets limping toward the finish line and with veteran big men JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson out for the season due to injury, head coach Brian Shaw has loosened the shackles on his two young guys, Kenneth Faried and Mozgov. Both have grabbed the opportunity by the throat, but Thursday proved to be a bit of a national coming-out party for them both. On national television, they utterly dismantled a great Warriors team. Faried also chipped in with 18 points and 17 rebounds, including the game-winning hook shot with 0.5 seconds left. The two combined for 46 rebounds, which was eight more than the entire Warriors team. Better yet, an astonishing 17 of them were on the offensive end.
Mozgov’s trademark game in the national spotlight has given Nuggets fans solace in knowing that brighter days are in store. The center has averaged over 18 points and 9.5 rebounds over his last six games. During the contest, Mozgov broke out a skill-set that fans and coaches might not have gotten a chance to witness had he not gotten more playing time. The 7’1″ Mozgov showed a soft jumper as well as an array of post moves and nimble footwork in the post, a combination of skills which is very rare for men his size.
On the other side of the spectrum, Mozgov’s huge performance exposed some concerning issues with the Golden State Warriors. They have yet to lock up a playoff berth, but expectations are high for them following another big season. The team was without All-Star power forward David Lee, but his presence certainly would not have completely mitigated the thrashing administered by Faried and Mozgov. Mark Jackson’s Warriors have a legitimate weakness down low and on the glass, and they are currently inching their way towards a first-round matchup with the LA Clippers. The Dubs have had a few tussles with the Clips this season, and the two definitely are not fond of one another. What is more concerning is the presence of superstar Blake Griffin and the athletic DeAndre Jordan on the front line, he who leads the NBA in both field goal percentage and rebounding. If they are to avoid a series-long beating from those two similar to what Faried and Mozgov did, someone is going to have to step up, and quickly.
Mozgov’s coming out party at the hands of the Warriors was a pleasant surprise for the Nuggets amidst a grim season. They can at least take solace in the fact that they just might have a rising star at the position and should feel comfortable allotting some more responsibility for the big man. No longer should he be recognized for getting “Mozgov’d” by Blake Griffin. It may have taken a few years, but he is now ready to be the one doing the “Mozgoving.”
Commentary by Justin Hussong