Shoot­ing guard Will Bar­ton putting an­kle in­jury well be­hind him as his game picks up.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christopher Dempsey Christopher Dempsey: cdempsey@den­ver­post.com or @chrisadempsey

BROOK­LYN, N.Y.» Truth be told, Will Bar­ton was pin­ing for some­one to ask about his de­fense. He was proud of it in the Nuggets’ win over Philadel­phia on Mon­day. He has worked tire­lessly to im­prove it. But the me­dia had an­other focus: of­fense.

And that was fine by Bar­ton too. The most pleas­ing thing to him about his last three games, in which he has av­er­aged 19.7 points (first on the team), 6.7 re­bounds (se­cond), 4.0 as­sists (se­cond) and 1.7 steals (tied for first), is that it feels fa­mil­iar.

“Just happy to be mak­ing big shots right now, and I’m just go­ing to keep fight­ing un­til I get back to all the way to my­self,” Bar­ton said. “Right now, I’m just try­ing to find ways to help the team win games.”

Bar­ton is pick­ing up where he left off at the time he was in­jured. He se­verely sprained his left an­kle in a game at Toronto on Hal­loween night. Bar­ton missed a to­tal of 11 games, but he ini­tially re­turned af­ter nine and just didn’t have it when he first came back to the lineup. He wasn’t ex­plo­sive, wasn’t quick, and wasn’t steady or sure on the an­kle. Af­ter putting up just one point and miss­ing all six of his shots from the field at Utah on Nov. 23, Bar­ton shut him­self back down.

It turned out to be the right choice. He re­turned Fri­day and has not missed a beat since. That in­cluded a lit­tle re­demp­tion in an­other game at Utah, where Satur­day he scored 20 points in the Nuggets’ loss.

“Last time we were there, af­ter that game I knew I came back pre­ma­turely,” Bar­ton said. “I shouldn’t have did it and I was kind of down on my­self. Hurt the team.” Not any­more. “Will is get­ting back to his old self,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Feel­ing com­fort­able, feel­ing con­fi­dent and then be­ing ag­gres­sive. Hope­fully, he’s over any concerns he’s had with the an­kle in­jury and can just go out there and play.”

For a mo­ment in the third quar­ter Mon­day, Malone wanted to see a lit­tle less Bar­ton. The first 3 minutes, 30 sec­onds was rough. Bar­ton was 0-for-4 from the field with an air­ball, missed a free throw and com­mit­ted a per­sonal foul. Ja­mal Mur­ray was sent to the scorer’s ta­ble to get him, and in fact Bar­ton was al­ready walk­ing off the court on a dead ball. But Mur­ray had not got­ten to the ta­ble in time to be subbed in be­fore play re­sumed, so Bar­ton stayed.

He made his next three shots, grabbed three re­bounds and had a steal. Mur­ray was brought back to the bench to let Bar­ton stay. Bar­ton laughed. “I got it go­ing af­ter he was about to sub for me,” he said. “So, Ja­mal was my mo­ti­va­tion walk­ing to that scorer’s ta­ble.

“I had a tough lit­tle be­gin­ning to the third. But I’m a guy that can play through mis­takes. I think I’ve earned the right to play through my mis­takes. I made up for them, got my en­ergy go­ing, picked it up and coach let me stay out there.”

Bar­ton’s team­mates have no­ticed the dif­fer­ence.

“He’s do­ing a great job,” for­ward Danilo Gal­li­nari said. “It’s not al­ways easy to get back in a rhythm once you get in­jured. But I thought he did a great job (Mon­day).”

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