DENVER (AP) — Kosta Koufos scored 18 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, helping the Denver Nuggets rally to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 87-80 on Friday night for their 11th straight victory, their longest streak in 30 years.
Danilo Gallinari had 15 points, including two free throws to break a tie with just over two minutes remaining, as the Nuggets won their 15th in a row at home.
Zach Randolph had a big game with 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who had their six-game winning streak halted.
The Grizzlies, Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers are tightly bunched in the race for the third seed in the Western Conference, with only a half-game separating the teams.
Andre Iguodala put the finishing touches on the comeback win for Denver by stealing a pass and swooping in for a dunk with 50 seconds remaining.
Trailing 66-58 heading into the fourth quarter, the Nuggets went on a 17-4 run to seize the momentum and rev up the crowd. Gallinari had a big shot during the stretch, a 3-pointer from up top.
Kenneth Faried provided a spark with his high-octane play. The player known as “Manimal” was blocking shots and hustling for rebounds.
This was a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the NBA not named the Miami Heat. It also was a game of contrasting styles, with Denver trying to push the pace and Memphis preferring to play at a more deliberate tempo.
Early on, the Nuggets controlled the rhythm — and the game — as they led by as many as nine in the first half. Jerryd Bayless beat the buzzer with a layup just before halftime to send the Grizzlies into the locker room trailing just 48-47.
After halftime, the Grizzlies began rolling by slowing things down. They also turned the pressure up a notch and held Denver to a season-low 10 points in the third quarter to take a 66-58 lead.
For three quarters, the Nuggets were lethargic and couldn’t match the energy of Wednesday, when they thumped the New York Knicks in Carmelo Anthony’s first return to the city since he was traded two years ago.
The Grizzlies have been on a 15-5 roll since a three-team deal on Jan. 30 that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto and landed Tayshaun Prince in Memphis.
Asked why the Grizzlies have flourished even without Gay, Nuggets coach George Karl simply responded, “confidence.”
“Sometimes, removing a piece enhances the opportunity for the other people that are there,” Karl said. “But I don’t study their team enough to know that answer.”
Notes: Although Nuggets rookie G Evan Fournier hasn’t played much this season, Karl envisions big things from the first-round pick in seasons to come. “I don’t think people in France should worry about Evan,” Karl said. “He’s going to be an NBA player. He’s going to play for 10 years. I think he will be a starter in the league someday. That’s how good I think he is. The opportunity just did not come this year.” … Randolph’s layup midway through the third quarter was negated after officials reviewed the play at the next stoppage and ruled he made it after the shot clock expired. It cut their lead 56-50. … Mike Conley and Prince each had 11 points for Memphis.
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