Denver has found success without Carmelo Anthony(notes) so far, but with the schedule about to get significantly tougher, the Nuggets would like to get the three-time All-Star forward back on the court.
After missing the last five games, Anthony has a chance to return Wednesday night when the Nuggets host a Phoenix Suns team playing some of its best basketball in two months.
Anthony has been hampered by injuries since the calendar changed to 2010. He sat out the first five games in January because of a right knee contusion and missed the last five because of a sprained left ankle. Somewhat surprisingly, the Nuggets (33-15) won seven of those contests.
Anthony could be back on the court against Phoenix, but will remain a game-time decision.
“We definitely need (Anthony) back,” coach George Karl told the Nuggets’ official Web site. “We need to get our ‘A’ players back on the court.”
Denver defeated Sacramento 112-109 in overtime Monday for its 10th victory in 11 games, though it needed its biggest rally of the season to pull it off. Arron Afflalo(notes) sank a 21-foot fallaway jumper from the baseline with 18.4 seconds left in overtime to help the Nuggets overcome a 17-point, third-quarter deficit.
Billups is also hobbled by a sprained left ankle he suffered against the Kings. However, he is expected to play Wednesday after taking part in the morning shootaround and saying the ankle “felt a little better.”
Although the Nuggets are compiling wins without Anthony, who is among the league leaders with 29.7 points per game, it likely won’t be as easy over this next stretch.
Before the All-Star game Feb. 14 at Cowboys Stadium, Denver plays five of the top seven teams in the Western Conference.
After this game, Denver travels to Los Angeles to play the West-leading Lakers on Friday followed by a game in Utah on Saturday. The Nuggets then return home for two games before the break, hosting Southwest-leading Dallas next Tuesday and San Antonio two days later.
Anthony led the way in Denver’s first meeting with the Suns, finishing with 32 points and eight rebounds in a 105-99 home victory Dec. 12. The home team has won the last 10 meetings in this series with the Nuggets winning the last five in Denver since a 113-108 loss on Feb. 5, 2007.
The Nuggets have won nine straight home games since a 108-105 loss to Philadelphia on Jan. 3 to improve to 22-3 at the Pepsi Center.
The Suns (29-21) have had their struggles on the road this season but are showing signs of turning things around.
After opening a four-game road trip with Sunday’s 115-111 overtime victory in Houston, Phoenix defeated New Orleans 109-100 on Monday for its third straight victory. Amare Stoudemire scored 25 points Monday, while Steve Nash(notes) had 18 points and 12 assists for the Suns, who have won consecutive games on the road after losing 12 of their previous 13 away from Phoenix.
Some improvements on defense have keyed this recent turnaround.
The Suns are allowing an average of 105.7 points on 43.9 percent shooting from the floor during their winning streak, not overly impressive, but considerably better than their previous seven games, when they yielded 114.3 points on 47.9 percent shooting.
“It all goes down to our defensive effort,” said Stoudemire, who is averaging 27.7 points during the winning streak. “In the past three games we’ve done a great job with that.”
It will be tough to continue this trend, though, as Denver has one of the most productive offenses in the NBA with 107.0 points per game.
The Suns are no strangers to this kind of offense, leading the league in scoring with an average of 110.0 points.