With their playoff chances looking uncertain and a tough stretch of road games ahead of them, the Denver Nuggets must take advantage of inferior teams.
The Nuggets have an opportunity to do that at the MCI Center when they face the struggling Washington Wizards.
Denver went through the first two-thirds of the season as one of the NBA’s surprise teams. The Nuggets got off to their best start in 14 years, eclipsing last season’s win total (17) by Dec. 22 and leading the Midwest Division well into December.
The past three weeks have been different.
The Nuggets, losers of eight of nine, are clinging to the final Western Conference playoff spot. But their schedule only gets tougher, with five of the next six games on the road.
“This was a tough loss for us,” Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “They are all tough because this is the first time where many of us have gone through the experience where every game was a critical game.”
The Wizards had postseason thoughts after winning four of five games and moving within 4 1/2 games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but their hopes have faded after two straight losses. Washington is ensured of its fifth straight non-winning season.
“If one, two or three guys don’t bring it, then the team doesn’t bring it,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said, “because we’re all in it together.”
Washington guard Gilbert Arenas is coming off a 28-point effort and is averaging 30.2 points in his last five games.
STANDINGS (through March 7): Nuggets - 6th place, 11 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Wizards - 6th place, 17 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Nuggets - Anthony, 20.3 ppg; Camby, 10.2 rpg; Miller, 6.1 apg. Wizards - Arenas, 19.4 ppg and 5.0 apg; Brown, 7.1 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Nuggets, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 21; Nuggets, 108-87. At Denver, Anthony had 23 points and seven assists to lead the Nuggets.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Nuggets - 11-19 on the road; Wizards - 14-18 at home.