The Denver Nuggets went into the All-Star break on top of their division for the first time in more than two decades.
The Nuggets start their stretch run for a postseason berth when they host the lowly Charlotte Bobcats.
Denver lost seven of 10 heading into the break, but still led the Northwest Division by two games over second place Utah. The Nuggets, who have not led their division at the break since 1984-85, are in seventh place in the Western Conference, a game ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Denver has reached the playoffs the last two seasons, only to fall in the first round. But Carmelo Anthony has been playing perhaps the best basketball of his career lately, averaging 28.3 points per game since Dec. 1.
Anthony ranks seventh in the league with 26.0 points per game, but was left off the Western Conference All-Star team. He has scored at least 30 points in four of his last six games, averaging 30.7 points over that span.
Anthony had 29 points in the Nuggets’ 116-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The Nuggets missed all 14 of their 3-point attempts and have been outrebounded in their last 11 games.
“Good teams don’t have to be motivated, they want to play,” coach George Karl said. “We weren’t that team tonight.”
The Nuggets have remained in playoff contention despite their players losing 155 games to injury—the second-most in the league behind the Bobcats.
Brezec insisted he would be back against the Nuggets as the Bobcats open a six-game road trip.
“Just one game,” said Brezec, who had a sore left Achilles’ heel. “Just one game, that’s all I’m going to miss. It’s been bothering me two weeks already but last game (Feb. 13 against Portland) was the worst.”
However, the Bobcats could be without rookie guard Raymond Felton, who was injured slightly in a car accident Sunday in Myrtle Beach, S.C..
Felton was rear-ended at a red light, and his status for the road trip is uncertain.
“My friends and I are blessed to escape this accident with only minor injuries, and thankfully I was wearing my seat belt,” Felton said in a statement.
The Bobcats won three more games in the first half this season than they did before the break last season, the franchise’s first in the NBA. Charlotte has lost four straight since a three-game winning streak.
The Bobcats’ four road wins tie them with Boston and New York for the league low.