A four-game winning streak to start November had some thinking the Los Angeles Clippers were on their way to a promising season. Those hopes have quickly diminished.
After getting swept by Seattle in a season-opening two-game series in Japan, the Clippers returned stateside with a vengeance, ripping off four straight wins, beginning with a 104-102 triumph over the Nuggets on Nov. 7.
However, an injury to star forward Elton Brand, who has missed the last 10 games, finally caught up with Los Angeles as it has dropped five straight, including Thursday’s 102-96 home setback to New Jersey.
Corey Maggette scored 20 points and Chris Wilcox, seeing extended playing time in Brand’s absence, added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles, which was held to a dismal 3-for-22 shooting performance in the second quarter.
“We had a couple of lapses after we were able to cut the lead to five or six,” Clippers guard Quentin Richardson said.
Anthony poured in 26 points and Voshon Lenard hit three big 3-pointers down the stretch as the Nuggets held off Dallas 113-103 on Friday.
Denver shot 52 percent for its sixth win in eight games and is off to its best start since 1994-95, its last playoff season. The Nuggets have won five straight at home and are 7-1 there for their best start since opening the 1989-90 season 9-0.
Anthony, picked third overall in this year’s draft, shot 9-of-16 from the floor and made all six of his free throws in a team-high 41 minutes.
Despite their promising start, the Nuggets are still struggling on the road, losing five of their first seven away from home, including three of their last four.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 27): Nuggets - 4th place (tied), 1 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Clippers - 7th place, 6 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Nuggets - Anthony, 17.1 ppg; Camby, 9.6 rpg; Miller, 4.6 apg. Clippers - Brand, 21.0 ppg, 15.0 rpg and 5.0 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Clippers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7; Clippers, 104-102 (OT). At Denver, Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds to play in overtime, starting a four-game winning streak for Los Angeles.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Nuggets - 2-5 on the road; Clippers - 2-3 at home.