Denver (34-31) at Chicago (39-30)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 51° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EDT Thu Mar 22, 2007
  • TV: NBATV, WGN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Denver Nuggets are finally putting together complete efforts, just at the right time. The Chicago Bulls are looking to snap out a funk as they fight for playoff positioning.

The Nuggets look for their season-high sixth straight victory when they visit Chicago on Thursday.

Denver, which beat New Jersey 94-90 on Tuesday to open a five-game road trip, has won five in a row for the third time this season. While the Nuggets (34-31) aren’t known for their defense, they’ve allowed fewer than 100 points in three games during the run, combining that effort with a potent offense.

“The most important thing for us is that we are playing defense,” guard Allen Iverson said. “We feel like we can score with Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and myself and other players. We can put the ball in the basket, but we also have to stop people.”

Denver, in the midst of a stretch of playing eight of nine on the road, finishes this trip with games against four of the Eastern Conference’s top five seeds.

The Nuggets’ victory over New Jersey was a big one, as it was their first when scoring less than 100 points this season. They had been 0-21 in such games.

Denver’s next four opponents - Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland and Detroit - are all allowing less than 100 points per game this season.

“Melo and A.I. have defensive talents,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Are they going to be all-defensive team? Probably not. All we want is a focus and what I call no cheap possessions. That’s what we’re seeing. Most of the time, if you score on us, you’ve earned it.”

The Bulls (39-30) are trying to avoid a third straight defeat after dropping consecutive games to teams with losing records. Chicago lost to league-worst Memphis 104-103 on Saturday, then fell 103-89 to the Clippers at home Tuesday.

“You’re definitely concerned when you lose two in a row to teams you think you can beat,” said Chicago’s Ben Gordon, who was 2-of-12 and scored 10 points against the Clippers.

The Bulls, who had won seven of their previous eight games before the two-game slide, had given up more than 100 points in just two of their previous 13 contests. Chicago is fifth in the East, 5 1/2 games behind conference-leading Detroit, but Miami is closing fast.

“Our defense could have been a lot better, but we have to do a better job of executing,” Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said after Tuesday’s loss. “We’re the type of team that can take teams out of what they want to do.”

After a road game against Indiana on Sunday, the Bulls have another three-game homestand. Despite Tuesday’s defeat, Chicago is 25-9 at the United Center.

The Bulls, though, haven’t been able to stop Denver lately. The Nuggets beat Chicago 113-109 at home Nov. 21 and have won 10 of the last 13 meetings. J.R. Smith, traded by the Bulls to Denver over the summer, had a career-high 36 points in the November matchup while Anthony had 29, the first time in four games against Chicago he failed to reach 30 points.

Iverson averaged 35.5 points in two games against the Bulls earlier this season while he was with Philadelphia, including a season-high 46 points Nov. 24.

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Thursday, Mar 22