Despite missing a huge chunk of their offense, the Denver Nuggets snapped their longest losing streak of the season thanks to some stingy defense.
The Nuggets might have to rely on this strategy a little longer.
With Carmelo Anthony’s(notes) status uncertain and Chauncey Billups(notes) expected to miss another game, Denver looks to win back-to-back contests for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks Sunday night against the Philadelphia 76ers and former Nugget Allen Iverson(notes).
Denver (21-12) boasts the NBA’s second-highest scoring offense at 106.8 points, but without Anthony, second in the league with a 30.0-scoring average, and Billups, who averages 17.1 points and 5.7 assists, the Nuggets turned to their defense in Saturday’s 105-95 win at Utah.
Playing its first game of the season without Anthony (right knee contusion), Denver forced an opponent season-high 26 turnovers leading to 33 points.
“The basic game plan was to play hard and figure the game out as it happens,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “The energy was good. The intensity was great. The defense was good and we hung on and got a great win.”
Denver ended a three-game losing streak and won for the just second time in seven games to remain tied atop the Northwest Division with Portland. Not surprisingly, Billups has missed six of the past seven games with a strained left groin that will likely keep him out again.
The Nuggets, who haven’t earned back-to-back wins since a three-game streak Dec. 12-16, acquired Billups from Detroit in a blockbuster trade for Iverson last November.
While Billups made an immediate impact with the Nuggets, helping to lead them to a division title and into the Western Conference finals, Iverson didn’t have the same success with the Pistons, who hobbled to a 41-41 finish before being swept by top-seeded Cleveland in the first round of the East playoffs.
In his first game at Denver since last season’s trade, Iverson scored 23 points on 6 of 18 shooting in a 93-90 win for the Pistons on Jan. 9.
Following the disappointment with Detroit, Iverson signed with Memphis in the offseason, but played only three games before being released Nov. 16. The Philadelphia fan favorite signed with the 76ers (9-23) two weeks later to help boost sagging attendance and provide some excitement for a floundering franchise.
Iverson’s first game of his second stint with Philadelphia came against the Nuggets on Dec. 7, and the 10-time All-Star finished with 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting in a 93-83 loss. Billups led Denver with 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Anthony finished with season lows of 14 points on 5 of 21 shooting (23.8 percent).
Iverson had some visible rust in his season debut with the Sixers, and has endured a rocky first month with his original team.
Iverson, who is averaging 15.5 points and 4.4 assists in eight games for Philadelphia, had a season-low seven points on 1 of 4 shooting with six assists in Thursday’s 104-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was Iverson’s third straight game after missing the previous four with arthritis in his left knee.
Iverson wasn’t the only Sixer to struggle Thursday. Philadelphia, which was coming off back-to-back wins at Portland and Sacramento, shot 37.6 percent from the floor and was outrebounded 43-35.
Trying to turn things around in Denver won’t be easy for Philadelphia, which has lost seven of 10 at the Pepsi Center.