The Nuggets didn’t play like a team on a seven-game winning streak Wednesday night. Greg Buckner’s 3-pointer with 1:13 remaining gave Denver its first lead and provided the winning margin in a 97-94 road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“It was one of those loose games where we thought that because our record was good we were going to win the game,” Denver coach George Karl said. “In the second half we finally showed some spunk.”
The winning streak is the longest for Denver since it won 10 in a row in March and April. That run was part of a 25-4 conclusion to the season for the Nuggets, who look to be in the midst of another dramatic turnaround.
Denver lost 17 of its first 31 games, and seven of its last nine, but is 11-2 in January. The Nuggets have won their last six games decided by five points or less.
“It’s confidence,” said Carmelo Anthony, who had 26 points and nine rebounds against Portland. “The last five minutes, we buckled down and took control of the game. We feel more confident in close games.”
Denver is also getting healthier. Center Marcus Camby was cleared to play Tuesday after missing 15 games with a broken finger, but he was inactive against Portland. His status is day-to-day, but it’s likely he will return to action against the Clippers.
Denver will need his presence against Los Angeles, which is first in the league in rebounding at 44.3 per game. The Clippers won their third straight Wednesday night, 90-77 over New Jersey for their sixth win in eight games.
Cuttino Mobley had 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to lead the Clippers, who play seven of their next eight on the road.
“Cuttino was great on the boards for us,” coach Mike Dunleavy said. “I thought he gave us a lot of energy.
“We know the importance of winning these type of games that we’ve got at home. We’ve got to continue to do that, fight, claw on the road, scratch out a few victories.”
Los Angeles has bounced back from a stretch in which it lost nine of 12 from Dec. 11-Jan. 7. The key has been better defense, something the Clips will be looking to carry over to their road-heavy stretch of schedule.
“We’re No. 1 in the league in rebounding, we’re top three in field-goal percentage, we’re No. 1 in blocked shots,” Dunleavy said. “So our defense certainly is a better defense than last year. If you want to win on the road, you’ve got to defend and I think that’s the thing we’ve got to hang our hat on.”
After concluding the home-and-home set against the Nuggets at Staples Center on Saturday night, the Clippers depart on a season-high six-game trip.