sports 2 days ago

Denver Nuggets' Gary Harris returns Saturday at San Antonio Spurs

The Denver Post — Gina Mizell The Denver Post

Jan. 13--SAN ANTONIO -- After a one-game absence to tend to a "private family matter," Nuggets leading scorer Gary Harris returned to the team in time to play in Saturday's game against the Spurs.

Harris, who was back at home in Indiana on Friday, entered Saturday averaging 16.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 49.8 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from 3-point range. That included a blistering start to January, as he was shooting 62.2 percent from the field (46-of-74) and averaging 22.6 points over his previous five games entering Saturday. He also ranked eighth in the NBA with 1.9 steals per game.

Denver clearly missed Harris' offense Friday, when the Nuggets' shot 38.6 percent from the floor but used stingy defense to grind their way to an 87-78 victory over the Grizzlies to snap a three-game losing streak. Will Barton started in place of Harris at shooting guard, totaling 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting and adding five rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes while playing off the ball and as the backup point guard.

"I think it's great for guys to get back on the court to take their mind off of things when you're dealing with a family situation like he is right now," coach Michael Malone said before Saturday's game.

Mudiay, Hernangomez still on bench. Malone has made an effort to expand his bench in January, with Malik Beasley, Kenneth Faried and Richard Jefferson all playing double-digit minutes Friday against Memphis on the first night of a back-to-back set.

Two players who still have't re-joined the larger rotation? Former backup point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and second-year forward Juancho Hernangomez, who have both been contributors during their time in Denver.

Malone reiterated that defense is the primary reason he currently keeps any player on the bench. Mudiay entered Saturday ranked last among NBA point guards in defensive real plus-minus, which measures a player's impact on team defensive performance. Hernangomez was 65th in that category among power forwards.

"You have to guard your position. You have to have discipline," Malone said. "And if you do those things, anything you give us on the offensive end of the floor is just a bonus."

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