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With the Denver Nuggets dealing with several injuries, the team called upon seldom-used guard Markus Howard on Saturday and the rookie responded with his best performance of the season.
Howard produced a career-high 13 points and one rebound in 13 minutes off the bench during a 125-119 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. He scored 10 points alone in the second quarter, including two 3-pointers to help the Nuggets take an early lead.
“I’m really happy for Markus,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “That kid has just worked his butt off all year long. To throw him out there in the middle of a game (in) meaningful minutes, it was great to see him go out there and respond and produce the way that he did.”
Entering play on Saturday, Howard totaled just 34 points in 32 prior appearances. He had mostly played in mop-up duty, but Malone wanted to try some different lineups versus the Nets and subbed Howard into the game in the second quarter.
The playing time for Howard gave him an opportunity to log meaningful minutes in a key matchup for the Nuggets. While he hasn’t played much this season, he stayed ready and gave his team solid production off the bench.
“We have some guys out, so it is the next man up mentality,” Howard said. “It’s just about staying ready. We worked extremely hard this year, guys that have played and guys that don’t necessarily play a whole lot. It is just about continuing to put in the work and when your time comes and your number is called, you have just to be prepared and be ready.”
With the regular season winding down for the Nuggets, Howard could eventually see more playing time. In addition to the injuries, Malone said he wants to try to get some of his high-minute players some rest with just four games remaining, which could pave the way for Howard.
While Howard may not see a ton of playing time in the playoffs, getting some valuable minutes to finish the season will certainly help his confidence level in the event he is needed. Based on how he played on Saturday, that may not necessarily be a bad thing…
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