The Denver Nuggets last swept a road trip of at least four games five seasons ago.
The Nuggets can accomplish that feat again and extend their win streak to seven Monday night as they go for their first season sweep of the Houston Rockets in 32 years.
Denver (45-21) owns the longest current win streak in the Western Conference and is one-half game ahead of Dallas in the race for the No. 2 seed. The Nuggets are three games behind the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Adrian Dantley filling in as coach while George Karl undergoes cancer treatments, Denver has trailed at halftime in every game of this trip. The Nuggets’ latest rally featured one of their best fourth quarters of the season.
Denver was down six at the half and tied after three periods Saturday, but scored 40 points in the fourth and won 125-108 at Memphis. Reserve J.R. Smith(notes) had 16 of his 30 in the final period, which the Nuggets opened on a 12-0 run.
“It was unbelievable,” Smith said. “It was a great beginning to the fourth quarter. I think it was the best we’ve had all year by far.”
“It was fun to watch,” point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Anthony Carter. He came off the bench and was huge. Huge. The way he pushed the ball and found everybody.”
The Nuggets last swept a four-game trip April 2-8, 2005. Smith averaged 21.5 points as Denver won the first two matchups of the season with the Rockets (33-31), whom the Nuggets have not swept since going 3-0 in 1977-78.
Carmelo Anthony(notes) missed Denver’s last two visits to Houston, where he has had his share of problems. His 19.2 scoring average at Toyota Center is his worst in any arena and his 38.8 field-goal percentage is his second worst.
Anthony, averaging 28.5 points, has scored at least 30 in four games during this win streak and should face a tough defensive matchup against Trevor Ariza(notes) on Monday. Rockets forward Shane Battier(notes) came off the bench for the first time in a 116-108 home win over New Jersey on Saturday, with Ariza re-joining the lineup.
Ariza will likely defend Anthony to start Monday’s game.
“Shane has told me from forever that he’ll come off the bench,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I told him I’d try it, but I don’t know if that’s better for our team. It changes Trevor’s role somewhat because now he’s got to guard the toughest guy out there at the start of the game.”
The Rockets have won three of four, getting the best performance of Luis Scola’s(notes) career their last time out. Scola scored 44 points on 20-of-25 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Nets.
“It was one of those nights where you’re feeling good, but then everything you try, works,” Scola said. “I’m probably as surprised as you are.”