The Denver Nuggets are still battling for a playoff spot, but they’re also looking more and more like a dangerous first-round opponent.
The Western Conference’s hottest team shoots for its 17th victory in 19 games when it visits the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.
Denver, which struggled mightily through the first four months of the season, is 22-6 since George Karl replaced interim coach Michael Cooper.
The Nuggets are coming off a 102-84 rout of Southwest Division-leading San Antonio on Friday night, moving back into a seventh-place tie with Memphis for the final two playoff spots in the West. The Grizzlies beat Milwaukee 93-82 earlier Friday.
Marcus Camby led the way for Denver with one of his best all around games of the season. The veteran center finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, eight blocks and five assists as Denver won its seventh straight at home.
The Nuggets also stretched their advantage to three games over ninth-place Minnesota.
The Nuggets’ only two losses during its month-long hot stretch came against conference-leading Phoenix, but Denver has posted two impressive wins over the Spurs in its drive toward a second straight postseason berth after a nine-year playoff drought.
“I don’t know how good we are. I don’t think anybody knows how good we are,” Karl said. “I’m getting confident, though.”
The struggling Blazers, who went 2-14 in March, began April with a tough 89-87 loss at Northwest Division-leading Seattle on Friday.
Trailing 85-83 with 2:03 remaining, Abdur-Rahim tied it with 1:45 to play, before Seattle’s Ray Allen fought off Damon Stoudamire’s blanketing defense and hit a 3-pointer to put Seattle up for good at 88-85 with 1:22 to go.
“We are doing the unbelievable, but it’s not producing wins,” said Portland coach Kevin Pritchard. “I’m very proud of my guys. Our guys competed the whole game.”