The Nuggets will try to rebound quickly as they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in another matchup against a struggling Eastern Conference team.
Denver (33-21) lost for the second time in three games Friday, falling 135-121 to the Chicago Bulls. The Nuggets have dropped back-to-back road games after winning the previous four, and they are 11-15 away from home.
Smith, who was averaging just 9.8 points, scored a career-high 43 points on 15-of-25 shooting and helped cut a 23-point deficit to four early in the fourth quarter, but Chicago went on a 14-3 run after that to put away the game.
Denver allowed the Bulls to shoot 57.1 percent from the field—the second-highest percentage an opponent has shot against the Nuggets. The 135 points were also the second-most they’ve allowed, trailing only a 137-115 loss at Phoenix on Jan. 7.
While the Nuggets are one of the league’s worst defensive teams—giving up 104.8 points per game—those struggles have been magnified on the road, where they have yielded 109.0 per contest. Denver has held just five teams below 100 in its 26 road games, and allowing teams to shoot 46.7 percent.
Although coach George Karl said Denver did not “respect” the Bulls, who are 10 games below .500, the players insisted that was not the case.
“Respect has nothing to do with this game,” Anthony said. “They came out shooting 150 percent from the field tonight.”
The Nuggets will try to avoid a similarly poor performance against another struggling team in the Central Division.
The Bucks (20-35) lost for the fifth time in six games Friday, falling 127-100 to the Detroit Pistons. Milwaukee, which had beaten Detroit 103-98 two days earlier, was outscored 32-11 in the second quarter and never recovered in losing by at least 25 points for the seventh time.
“It’s embarrassing to lose games by that kind of margin - we know we’re better than that,” Desmond Mason said.
Denver, which has won four straight in Milwaukee, had its best scoring output of the season in a 125-105 rout of the Bucks on Dec. 26. Anthony had 29 points to lead seven players in double figures for the Nuggets, who shot 54.7 percent and are trying to sweep the series for the fourth time in the last five seasons.