The Denver Nuggets spent the past 10 days playing some of the league’s best teams and had very little success to show for it.
They hope to get things turned around when they open a seemingly favorable portion of their schedule on Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.
After winning seven of eight from Nov. 29-Dec. 15 to open a 2 1/2-game lead in the Northwest Division, the Nuggets (18-11) were unable to keep the momentum going. Denver lost to Houston, Cleveland and Phoenix before splitting a home-and-home series with Portland.
The Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers 97-89 on Monday, but lost 101-92 the next night. Denver still owns a half-game lead over Portland in the division.
“We knew these two games would be playoff-type games,” said Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups, who had 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting on Tuesday.
Denver’s offensive struggles has been a major reason for its funk. The team is averaging 94.8 points in its last five games, down from 111.0 in its previous eight.
Billups’ own struggles have contributed to the team’s recent woes. He’s averaged 15.6 points on 36.4 percent shooting and 6.0 assists in those contests after posting 19.8 points on 51.1 percent shooting and 7.3 assists in his previous four games - all Denver victories.
Carmelo Anthony, who leads the team with 20.5 points, is expected to miss his third straight game with a sore elbow, but the Nuggets hope to overcome his absence as they open a relatively easy stretch of the season
After facing the 76ers (12-16), the Nuggets play New York, Atlanta, Toronto and Oklahoma City on the road. As of Friday, those four teams have a combined winning percentage of .384 with only the Hawks owning a winning record.
The Nuggets also hope to get another strong performance from Nene, who has stepped up his game with Anthony out.
Nene had 17 points and 13 rebounds on Tuesday and matched his career best with his third straight double-double. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging 18.7 points and 13.0 boards in his last three games, up from 7.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in his previous five.
The 76ers started a season-high six-game road trip on Tuesday with a 110-91 loss to Boston, their second straight defeat after winning three in a row.
Philadelphia was 0-for-11 from beyond the arc against the Celtics, and have missed all 19 3-point attempts in its last two games. Interim coach Tony DiLeo would like his team to score more in the transition game.
“When we get out on the break we are a good team, a very good team,” he said. “It starts with our defense, if we can get out and stop them we are a very good team.”
Andre Miller is scoring an average of 12.5 points in his last six games after posting 22.2 points in his first five December games, and hopes to regain his shooting touch against his former team. He averaged 25.0 points against Denver last season - his highest against any opponent in 2007-08.
In 2007-08, the Nuggets and 76ers split the two-game season series for the fourth straight time.