The Denver Nuggets may have figured out how to get their offense back on track, just in time to make another run up the Western Conference standings.
The Nuggets have experienced little trouble scoring in recent years when hosting the Los Angeles Clippers, who visit Denver on Saturday night struggling mightily at the defensive end.
As recently as March 18, Denver led the Northwest Division and was second in the conference. However, losses in five of their next six games pushed the Nuggets (49-27) down to fifth.
Denver, third in the league with 106.9 points per game, averaged 97.8 over that stretch and cracked 100 once in its final eight games in March.
The Nuggets opened this month with a 109-92 victory over playoff-bound Portland on Thursday night.
After missing 13 of 16 shots in a loss at Dallas three days earlier, Carmelo Anthony(notes) hit 10 of his 21 attempts against the Blazers en route to a team-leading 25 points. Chauncey Billups(notes) was 6 of 13 for 21 points after finishing with 11 on 3-of-14 shooting versus the Mavericks.
Still, both All-Stars continue to struggle from 3-point range, with Anthony going 4 of 25 (16.0 percent) and Billups 12 of 53 (22.6 percent) in the last nine games.
Improving that long-range shooting would help Denver’s offense, as would continuing to do a better job passing the basketball. Acting coach Adrian Dantley pointed to his team’s 24 assists - the most since a win over Minnesota on March 10 - as a key to Thursday’s win.
“We know when we share the ball, we get results,” Dantley said. “I told the guys before the game, ‘Our record is 40-7 when we get 20 assists or more,’ and we got 24 tonight.”
The Nuggets had 20 assists in both games against the Clippers (27-48) this season and have totaled at least 20 in 12 straight meetings in Denver.
The Nuggets have averaged 111.3 points while winning six in a row at home over Los Angeles, including a 105-85 victory Jan. 21.
That defeat is part of a 3-25 road record since Dec. 20 for the Clippers, who have dropped 13 of 15 overall while surrendering an average of 108.5 points.
They’ve suffered three straight losses by an average of nearly 20 points, letting the opposition shoot 53.3 percent. Plus, Los Angeles has forced a paltry average of 9.6 turnovers in the last five games.
The Clippers were within six points entering the fourth quarter Wednesday night in Toronto but lost 114-92.
“You want to keep playing hard but sometimes you just run out of energy and there’s nothing you can do, you’re out of gas,” said center Chris Kaman(notes), who had a team-best 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Los Angeles snapped a seven-game slide to the Nuggets with a 106-99 win Nov. 20 despite Anthony’s 37 points.