After their nine-game home winning streak was snapped in their most recent game, the Charlotte Bobcats hope their season-long trend of struggling on the road is also due to end.
While their six-game trip begins Monday night in Denver, one of the toughest venues for visitors, they’ll face a Nuggets team expected to be without Carmelo Anthony(notes) as it seeks a seventh straight win overall and eighth consecutive at home.
Charlotte (21-21) has made its surge into playoff position in the Eastern Conference almost entirely at home, where the Bobcats are 18-5. They had won a franchise-record nine straight there before a 106-95 overtime loss to Orlando on Saturday night.
Charlotte has lost two in a row overall after winning nine of the previous 10, with a sluggish offensive performance to blame against the Magic. Forward Gerald Wallace(notes) scored in single digits for the third time in 41 games, finishing with nine points as the Bobcats were held below 40 percent shooting for the first time in 33 games.
They were outscored 14-3 in overtime after missing their first six shots.
“We had some bad matchups in overtime and (Orlando) did a great job,” coach Larry Brown said.
The defeat followed a 103-89 loss to Atlanta which dropped the Bobcats to 3-16 on the road. Only New Jersey has fewer road wins.
None of Charlotte’s road victories came against West opponents, and the Bobcats’ next six games are in West cities, including matchups with Phoenix, Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers during its longest trip of the season.
“Any time you go out on the West Coast it’s very difficult getting used to the time, and some of the best teams in the NBA are in the Western Conference,” Wallace said. “So it’s going to be an adjustment for us, but we’re going to have be solid, take care of the ball and execute offensively and defensively.”
Facing the Nuggets (29-14) will be a major test considering Denver is 20-3 at home, tying it with the Lakers and Cleveland for fewest home losses.
Denver fended off visiting New Orleans 116-110 in overtime Saturday night to extend its longest winning streak of the season to six. The Nuggets have won their last seven home games, matching their longest such streak of the season.
“There’s always a weakness to the double team,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “In overtime Afflalo’s two 3s were huge. We’re not a pretty team, we just win games.”
Denver, though, won’t have Anthony on Monday. Anthony, second in the NBA to LeBron James(notes) with 29.7 points per game, suffered a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter against the Hornets. Joey Graham(notes) will start in his place.
Denver’s J.R. Smith(notes) will be allowed to play Monday after he skipped an optional practice Sunday. The team decided not to suspend him, although Rex Chapman, vice president of player personnel, didn’t rule out some sort of punishment for the guard.
The key reserve, who played a season-low 12 minutes against New Orleans and engaged in what Karl called “eclectic” behavior on the bench, is averaging 14.5 points.
The Bobcats lost in four of their five trips to Denver, but beat the Nuggets 107-95 at home Dec. 8.