With their leading scorer and top rebounder both back in action, things are certainly looking up for the suddenly hot Denver Nuggets.
The same can’t be said for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who visit the Pepsi Center in the midst of their longest skid of the season.
Looking to extend its winning streak to five, Denver tries for a 10th victory in 12 meetings with Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Since dropping 12 of 16 from Jan. 29-Feb. 23, the Nuggets (22-17) have won four in a row to climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
After prevailing 117-105 at Houston on Friday and 99-94 at San Antonio on Sunday, Denver kicked off a nine-game homestand by overcoming a double-digit deficit in Monday’s 119-116 overtime win over Sacramento.
“This game meant a lot for us,” Lawson said. “To come back home on a back-to-back and (against) Sacramento - everybody is thinking, `Oh, we just will beat them.’ I think at one point we had no business winning. This was a big win.”
The Nuggets also got a boost with the return of Danilo Gallinari and Nene, who combined for 10 points in limited roles off the bench. Gallinari had missed the previous 13 games with a chip fracture in his left foot while Nene, averaging 13.1 points and a team-best 7.6 rebounds, returned from a 10-game absence (strained calf).
“It’s sore and I feel discomfort, but it feels pretty good,” Gallinari, whose 16.5 points per contest lead the team, told the Nuggets’ official website. “Hopefully it will be better every day and every game will be more comfortable.”
It’s unknown if Gallinari or Nene will return to the starting lineup Wednesday. The Nuggets, however, might not have much trouble holding off scuffling Cleveland (13-23) even if they don’t.
The Cavaliers have allowed an average of 102.8 points during a six-game losing streak, their longest since dropping an NBA-record 26 in a row last season.
Cleveland is coming off Monday’s 109-100 defeat to Utah. The Jazz, who led by as many as 17 points, shot 50.0 percent from the field and outrebounded the Cavaliers 46-30 to snap a six-game road losing streak.
“(Monday) was one of those games that you’re hoping that - sooner or later - someone in the locker room starts getting (ticked) off besides me,” coach Byron Scott told the league’s official website. “That’s what it boils down to. We can’t keep playing this way.”
“I think everybody has a little attitude in here, but I think that’s good,” Irving said. “Going on to the next game, I think we’re all (ticked) off and it has to show out there on the court. There is some optimism and we’ve just got to get a win. It just boils down to us playing hard for 48 minutes.”
Cleveland, which scores 93.9 points per game, could have a hard time keeping up with the Nuggets and their league-leading average of 104.1.
The Cavaliers have dropped five of six in Denver and nine of 11 overall in the series heading into this season’s lone meeting.