Coming off a career night, the Nuggets seek another strong effort from Kleiza on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center as they try to sweep a season series from the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves for the first time since 1995-96.
With Kenyon Martin out due to a staph infection, the versatile Kleiza started for just the sixth time this season and scored a career-high 41 points on 13-for-21 shooting in Denver’s 120-109 home victory on Thursday over Utah.
Kleiza became the first Denver player other than Iverson or Anthony with at least 40 since Nick Van Exel had 44 on Nov. 1, 2001.
“He played a great game,” said Iverson, who had 28 points and nine assists. “Hopefully he can continue to play that way.”
With Martin’s return uncertain, the Nuggets (23-15) could look to showcase Kleiza on Saturday as they try for a fifth straight win over Minnesota (5-33), which has lost four in a row.
Kleiza, the third-year swingman who is third on the team averaging 11.2 points, is one of Denver’s top reserves, but had just 10 total points in his two previous two games - both losses - prior to Thursday. He had 17 points in the Nuggets’ 118-107 win at Minnesota on Jan. 4 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
“I’ve now scored 40 points on the highest stage you can ever score,” said Kleiza, whose previous career-high was 29 against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 15. “I will remember this night for the rest of my life.”
It was also a good night for Denver, which bounced back after road losses to Charlotte and Atlanta by using a 10-3 run early in the fourth quarter to pull away.
“I didn’t think our guys were hungry enough on the two games on the road, and they were subservient to A.I. and Melo,” said Denver coach George Karl, whose team is one half-game behind first-place Portland in the Northwest Division.
Anthony had 23 points and Marcus Camby tied a career high with 24 rebounds and 11 blocks.
Anthony is averaging 30.0 points on 53.1 percent shooting versus Minnesota this season, while Camby is averaging 10.7 points and 17.0 rebounds against the Timberwolves in three games.
Denver will try to match a season high with a fifth consecutive home win as it looks for its third victory in a row at home over Minnesota.
The Timberwolves, who play four of their next six on road, lost 115-95 at Phoenix on Friday to fall to 1-19 away from home. Minnesota’s lone road win came at New Orleans on Nov. 26.
“That was really the difference, that second quarter,” said Minnesota coach Randy Wittman, whose team has allowed 105 points or more in four straight contests.
McCants, who averages 15.0 points per game, had a career-high 34 on 12-for-18 shooting in the last meeting with Denver. Jefferson, meanwhile, is averaging 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds versus the Nuggets this season.