Playing at an especially high level at home, the Denver Nuggets enjoyed one of the most successful months in franchise history.
The New Orleans Hornets appeared to be having a breakthrough month before struggling the second half of January.
The Nuggets will try to carry their momentum into February and win for the 12th time in 14 games Friday night when they host the Hornets, who have lost four of five.
With a 118-110 victory over Houston on Wednesday, Denver (29-18) won its fifth straight to finish 12-3 in January. That matched the team’s 2010 mark for the best January record in franchise history.
After being saddled with the heaviest road schedule in the NBA in 28 years with 22 of their first 32 games away from home, the Nuggets have taken advantage with 15 of 18 at home since the schedule turned in their favor Jan. 1.
The Nuggets have one of the league’s best home records at 19-3, and they’ve won the first three on their six-game homestand.
“We knew from the beginning of the season January was the most important month of the season,” said Danilo Gallinari who had a game-high 27 points against the Rockets. “I thought we responded well.”
Gallinari, the team’s leading scorer at 17.0 points per game, heads into Friday’s contest with a hot hand after totaling 54 points on 19-of-33 shooting - 7 for 15 from 3-point range - in his last two games.
Ty Lawson has totaled 39 points in his last two against the Hornets, scoring 17 on 8-of-10 shooting in a 102-84 home win Nov. 25.
Denver ranks near the top of the league in scoring at home with 108.0 points per game, and has averaged 113.4 during its five-game winning streak.
The Nuggets should be able to keep it going against the Hornets, who have given up 103.6 points per game over their last seven.
New Orleans (15-31) has won seven straight when holding opponents under 100 points, but that won’t be easy against a Denver team that has scored 100 in regulation in 10 of its last 13 contests.
After winning six of seven during their best stretch of the season in January, New Orleans has lost five of seven and two in a row.
The Hornets, however, are expected to have Eric Gordon back in the lineup after missing a 104-99 loss at Utah on Wednesday. Gordon has been held out in the second game of back-to-backs while he recovers from a knee injury that caused him to miss the first third of this season.
Gordon has averaged 17.4 points and is coming off a season-best 25-point effort in a 111-106 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. New Orleans has won eight of the 14 games the guard has played.
Greivis Vasquez is averaging 11.7 assists over his last seven games, but he’s shot 18 for 59 (30.5 percent) in his last four for New Orleans.
Without Gordon, the Hornets’ starting guards shot 11 of 30 (36.7 percent) from the floor against the Jazz.
“A lot of times you guys look at the numbers and assists and you think they’re playing well but they’re not,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’re not managing the game properly.”
The Nuggets have won four of six in the series, including two straight at home by an average of 16.5 points.