It took a few games, but the Denver Nuggets are feeling the effects of the numerous suspensions handed out after last month’s brawl in New York.
The struggling Nuggets will try to snap a five-game losing streak when they host the Milwaukee Bucks at the Pepsi Center on Monday.
The Nuggets traded for Allen Iverson on Dec. 19 to help soften the blow of losing their top two scorers, and the team responded by winning three of its first four games.
Denver (16-15), though, has stumbled since. One of the league’s highest-scoring teams at 106.0 points per game, the Nuggets have been held under 100 points and lost by double digits in four of their last five losses.
“When you are in a losing streak and you can’t find answers, you’re paranoid,” said Denver coach George Karl, who went 205-173 as Milwaukee’s coach from 1999-2003. “There are moments when I think the league is against us. We’re not getting any whistles, A.I. (Allen Iverson) gets beat up and no calls.
“It just seems like you get paranoid and you think everybody is against us.”
The Nuggets, in the midst of a four-game homestand, get Smith back for Wednesday’s game against San Antonio. But if Denver doesn’t get by the Bucks, the losing streak might continue against the Spurs and Houston, which have two of the NBA’s better records.
“To say (morale) is great would be a lie,” said Iverson, who is averaging 26.4 points in eight games with Denver. “Coach is telling us after the game, ‘Just keep your spirit and stay together. Because that’s the easiest thing to do when things are going so bad is to point fingers at each other and get down on each other and not stay together.
“That’s easy to do when things are going wrong. The real good teams are the ones that stay together when they face adversity, not just when everything is going right. We’ll find out what type of character this team has while we’re struggling right now.”
Smith was having a breakthrough season, averaging 16.7 points, while Anthony still leads the league at 31.6 points per game. Those two combined with Iverson — who’s averaging 29.5 points in 23 games with Philadelphia and Denver—can help the Nuggets return to their high-scoring ways.
Playing Milwaukee (16-17) might help as well. Before the Bucks won 110-89 on Feb. 27, in the last meeting between the teams, the Nuggets had won six straight in the series, scoring at least 100 points in five of those victories.
The Bucks have lost consecutive games and are just 1-3 since a season-high, six-game winning streak. They made only 3-of-16 shots in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 95-86 loss to Cleveland, snapping a seven-game home winning streak.
“It didn’t look pretty,” Bucks guard Mo Williams said. “One, shots didn’t fall. Two, we didn’t execute well. Three, we just didn’t have the energy the whole game.”
Milwaukee is in a stretch in which it’s alternating nine straight games between home and the road, having gone 1-2 so far.