The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

The Nuggets ap­peared to be in for a long night Mon­day when they fell be­hind by 13 points early at Houston.

En­ter Em­manuel Mudiay. The sec­ond-year point guard, de­moted to third string af­ter the all-star break, scored eight points in less than five min­utes to be­gin the sec­ond quar­ter, key­ing a 17-7 run that helped the Nuggets grab the lead.

Mudiay saw the court Mon­day night, in part, be­cause guards Jameer Nel­son and Gary Har­ris had each played 39 min­utes two nights ear­lier in Den­ver, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t want to put the same work­load on those starters for the sec­ond straight game.

But it also was an op­por­tu­nity that Mudiay earned, ac­cord­ing to his coach.

“He has been work­ing ex­tremely hard,” Malone said. “He hasn’t felt sorry for him­self. He’s put a lot of ex­tra time in work­ing on his game, and so I wanted to re­ward him.”

Still, as the Nuggets be­gin to get healthy — Wil­son Chan­dler and Dar­rell Arthur re­turned Wed­nes­day night af­ter miss­ing four games — more stretches on the court like Mon­day’s are not guar­an­teed for Mudiay.

“If it fits,” Malone said when asked whether Mudiay will con­tinue to see sig­nif­i­cant min­utes. “When we’re healthy, it be­comes harder. But if it presents it­self, … I have no hes­i­ta­tion to put Em­manuel out there. I know he’s stay­ing ready. That’s why I’m not sur­prised at the play he had at Houston.”

Faried’s role the same.

Ken­neth Faried has av­er­aged a lit­tle more than 16 min­utes in his two games since re­turn­ing from a three-week ab­sence due to a back in­jury.

The Nuggets have no plan to in­crease the for­ward’s work­load any­time soon. The med­i­cal staff has rec­om­mended his play­ing time be limited to roughly 20 min­utes per game, for now, in an ef­fort to pre­vent set­backs with the in­jury.

“Right now I’m com­fort­able with Nikola (Jo­kic) and Ma­son (Plum­lee) in the start­ing lineup,” Malone said. “They’ve shown they have a pretty good con­nec­tion on the of­fen­sive end as well as the de­fen­sive end. The great thing is Ken­neth can play with ei­ther of those bigs, as well. We want to be smart about how many min­utes we play him.”

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