DENVER (AP) — Nuggets rookie Bones Hyland pulled up from near Denver’s midcourt logo and let his shot fly. The point guard even kept his right arm in the air, too, just to savor a jumper he knew was going in. He skipped down the court as Golden State called timeout and he held a hand to his ear, soaking in the arena-rattling roar.
From the bench, teammate Nikola Jokic couldn’t help but grin as the reigning MVP took in the second-quarter scene.
Hyland’s the latest young talent to embrace the spotlight during his inaugural postseason. His long-range performance — an homage to Stephen Curry, the player he grew up watching — sparked his teammates against the Warriors, helped the Nuggets stave off elimination and, most importantly, gave Jokic some much-needed assistance.
“He did what he’s been doing the whole year, “said Jokic, whose team is headed to San Francisco for Game 5 on Wednesday trailing 3-1 in the series. “He gave us energy.”
Hyland, the 26th overall pick out of VCU in 2021, has been exhibiting this sort of swagger all season. He’s turned into instant energy for the Nuggets.
It may be too late in this series — no NBA team has come back to win from a 3-0 deficit — but Hyland could provide valuable depth down the road when Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back) are healthy again.
“Those big shots,” Hyland said, “don’t faze me.”
Hyland hit three straight 3-pointers in a second-quarter spurt that extended Denver’s lead to 17 points Sunday. These weren’t your ordinary long-range shots, either.
They were Curry-esque.
He grew up admiring the way the Warriors standout wasn’t bashful about launching a shot from any distance.
“He set the foundation for a lot of us players, changing the game with his shooting abilities,” Hyland said after a 126-121 win in Game 4. “I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid. Steph was on the big platform and he showed it to his highest ability. I always give props to the ones who set the foundation before me. Steph’s a great shooter.”
Back at ya, rookie.
“He seems like he just enjoys playing basketball,” Curry said. “And obviously he deserved to have some fun with those three big shots. He got a lot of separation, got them over the hump, got the crowd into it.”
Simply the confidence of youth shining through.
“It’s electric, man,” said Monte Morris, who hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter on his way to 24 points. “People pay their (hard-earned) money to come see us play, to see Bones get hot.”
Hyland certainly gave them their money’s worth. Just another postseason newcomer making a splash.
Same with New Orleans rookie Herbert Jones, who played smothering defense against the Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul as the Pelicans tied the series at two apiece Sunday. Jones — a second-round pick in ’21 — had three blocked shots.
“I’ve never seen a guy this young, this sharp, this smart, this unbothered, unfazed,” teammate CJ McCollum said. “He’s going to be very good not only for us but for this league going forward. He’ll be first-team all-defense as soon as they start watching Pelicans games.”
Overshadowed by Hyland was the performance of Warriors rookie forward Jonathan Kuminga, who came off the bench to score nine points. He had one point over the previous three games.
“We called on him because we were kind of stuck in mud and he came out there and did a really good job,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
It was a rare off night for playoff newcomer Jordan Poole, who was held to 11 points on 3 of 10 shooting. This after erupting for 30, 29 and 27 points.
“As much as we love Jordan, averaging 29, 30 a game, it’s really, really hard,” said Klay Thompson, who had 32 points Sunday, including seven 3-pointers. “We all go through it. We all go through tough shooting nights, or just not feeling like ourselves.”
Hyland’s feeling more and more like himself — shooting-wise and energy-wise.
“These past couple games, I just wasn’t myself as far as being aggressive and getting shots up, and also making shots,” Hyland said. “I’m going to make big shots and get that energy flowing throughout the whole team. Because it’s very needed.”
By PAT GRAHAM AP Sports Writer
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