The Denver Nuggets were getting by well enough with Carmelo Anthony(notes) out of the lineup, but couldn’t overcome playing with both he and Chauncey Billups(notes) in street clothes in their last contest.
The Dallas Mavericks would certainly prefer to see the All-Star duo on the bench again.
Both Anthony and Billups are questionable for the Nuggets’ game Tuesday night against Dallas, which tries to become the first visiting team in three years to win twice in a season at the Pepsi Center in a battle of division leaders.
Anthony has missed 13 of Denver’s last 19 games with various injuries - the last eight because of a sprained left ankle - but Billups kept the Nuggets (34-17) rolling even without the NBA’s second-leading scorer. Billups averaged 23.6 points and 7.7 assists as Denver went 5-2 in the first seven games Anthony missed, and scored a career-high 39 points in a 126-113 win at the Los Angeles Lakers last Friday.
However, Billups suffered a sprained right ankle in the win over the Lakers and sat out the following night as the Nuggets lost 116-106 at Utah. Rookie backup Ty Lawson(notes), averaging 19.4 points in his last seven starts when Billups has been hurt, had a career-high 25 points in a losing effort.
“I thought we kept fighting and fighting. We didn’t have a lot of things go our way,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We’re banged up. We need a couple of days off.”
While Denver is 8-5 without Anthony in the lineup, it’s just 3-6 when Billups is sidelined.
Neither player is sure to play in this contest, though Anthony appears to be targeting either Tuesday or Thursday against San Antonio to return prior to this weekend’s All-Star break. Billups is listed as probable despite not practicing Monday, when he instead received treatment for both ankles.
Billups missed the Nuggets’ first meeting with Dallas (32-19) on Dec. 27 with a strained left groin. Anthony struggled, going 5 of 19 and scoring 16 points before fouling out in a 104-96 home loss, which ended Denver’s five-game series winning streak. It also means Dallas now has a chance to become the first visitor to win at Denver twice in a season since 2006-07, when Utah and Houston did it.
The Mavericks had lost four of five heading into their second meeting in six days with Golden State on Monday. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) battled foul trouble and was limited to 15 points, but Jason Terry(notes) scored a season-high 36 and Drew Gooden(notes) and Josh Howard(notes) combined for 49 off the bench to lift Dallas to a 127-117 victory.
Terry scored 10 of his points in the fourth to lead the Mavericks back from an eight-point deficit through three quarters.
“This was a bit of a gut check for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “… We’ll look to build off this. It’s been a tough 10-day stretch. We’ve had struggles but it’s a long year.”
Gooden played a big role in Dallas’ earlier visit to the Pepsi Center. Nowitzki and Terry combined to shoot 11 of 27, but Gooden made all eight of his shots from the field and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mavericks are 17-3 when Gooden scores at least nine points.
Denver shot 5 of 17 from 3-point range during its first meeting with Dallas - a good indicator that Karl’s team is in trouble. The Nuggets are 13-15 when they fail to make at least seven 3-pointers, compared with a 21-2 mark when they make seven or more.