The Denver Nuggets are leading the Northwest Division, have the third-highest scoring team in the NBA and are one game removed from their superstar posting a career-high 50 points in their fourth straight win.
Despite all those positives, George Karl is only concerned with what he witnessed most recently.
Two days after the Nuggets coach called his team an “embarrassment” following a stunning home loss, Denver looks to bounce back Tuesday as it hosts red-hot guard Monta Ellis(notes) and the Golden State Warriors.
Denver (12-5) had won four in a row and six of seven coming into Sunday’s game against Minnesota - then 1-15 - and Carmelo Anthony(notes) looked as locked in as he’d ever been. The two-time All-Star had scored 50 points in a 128-125 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday to boost his league-best scoring average to 30.9.
Anthony upped it to 31.0 by scoring 32 against the Timberwolves, but there was no celebration at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets allowed the woeful Timberwolves to connect on 51.2 percent of their shots in a shocking 106-100 loss, snapping a 17-game regular-season home winning streak dating to March 11.
“Tonight, we’re an embarrassment and we have to live with it for the next 48 hours,” Karl said.
“Tell me the five guys that I can put on the court to play hard every possession. Tell me. I had it last year. I had a play-hard team last year. I don’t have a play-hard team this year and it’s making me very angry.”
Denver had also won 10 in a row against Minnesota, and held a 14-point halftime lead before collapsing at the hands of a team that had lost its previous 15 games by an average of 15.8 points.
“That team is not going to stop playing just because they lost 15 straight. That don’t matter,” said forward Kenyon Martin(notes), who had 16 points and 14 rebounds. “They are a professional team and they got pride and so we got exactly what we deserved - nothing more, nothing less.”
The Nuggets’ first chance at redemption comes against another last-place team, but it’s hard to classify the Warriors (6-10) as pushovers.
Golden State averages 109.6 points - 0.4 more than Denver - after giving that number a big boost Monday night. Ellis scored a career-high 45 points before fouling out with 6:03 left in a 126-107 win during which the Warriors trailed by as many as 15.
“Monta has been playing at a level that’s been pretty incredible,” said interim coach Keith Smart, filling in while Don Nelson recovers from pneumonia. “… Watching him evolve into this guy we all knew could be special, he’s starting to do that.”
This wasn’t Ellis’ only recent outstanding performance. He’s averaging 35.2 points and 3.8 steals in his last five games.
Ellis has averaged 22.7 points and 3.3 steals while shooting 41.8 percent in his last three games versus Denver. He missed two of the teams’ three meetings in 2008-09, while serving a 30-game suspension following an offseason moped accident.
The Warriors could use another huge effort from Ellis after the team’s lengthy injured list added another name. Forward Anthony Randolph(notes) left Monday’s win with a foot injury, meaning Golden State could have as many as seven inactive players Tuesday.
Anthony has scored at least 25 points in 14 straight games against the Warriors, who haven’t swept games on back-to-back days in 20 chances since winning at Miami and Orlando on March 7 and 8, 2008.