The Denver Nuggets have been scoring at will for the last month, dominating teams at home and playing like a serious contender in the Western Conference.
All of the talk from the team after its last game, though, was how it finally finished strong on the defensive end.
The Nuggets try to win seven straight for the first time in just over two years when they continue a season-high six-game homestand Tuesday night against a Milwaukee Bucks team that has never had much success in Denver.
Denver (30-18) is on its second six-game win streak in four weeks, part of a 13-3 surge since the calendar moved to 2013. It has helped that 13 of those 16 games have come at home, where the Nuggets are 20-3 and averaging 108.2 points.
They’ve won five in a row on their own court, putting up even better offensive numbers. Denver, which last won seven straight overall Nov. 20-Dec. 5, 2010, is averaging 115.0 points and shooting 50.5 percent during the home win streak.
The Nuggets, though, are allowing an average of 104.0 points on 46.8 shooting in those games, which has not sat well with George Karl. The coach was especially bothered by his team’s fourth-quarter defense, but Denver held New Orleans to 20 points in the final period of Friday’s 113-98 win.
The Nuggets were outscored 32-21 in the fourth quarter of a 112-108 home loss to lowly Washington on Jan. 18, and blew a 14-point lead late in a 102-101 win over Indiana on Jan. 28.
“In general we’ve been good getting leads in the fourth quarter, but we’ve been giving them back,” Karl said. “Tonight we didn’t do that.”
Denver was ahead by 16 with 3:33 left before two 3-pointers cut it to eight with 1:28 remaining, but the Hornets never really threatened.
“The story of the night was when we had a 10-point lead with 3 minutes to go, we didn’t give it up,” said Andre Iguodala who scored a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting.
Milwaukee (25-21) allowed 31 points in the fourth quarter Saturday but scored 28 of its own in a 107-98 home win over Orlando. The Bucks got contributions from across the board as they avoided a third straight loss.
Monta Ellis had 21 points and a season high-tying 11 assists, Brandon Jennings scored 20 and Larry Sanders added 17 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Ersan Ilyasova had 16 points and eight rebounds and reserve Mike Dunleavy scored 11, hitting three of four 3-pointers.
“Everybody moved the ball well. I thought we just had a nice little rhythm going,” coach Jim Boylan said. “Sometimes when we play with that kind of ease, we can get a little distracted and lose a little focus and we did on a couple of occasions.”
The Bucks can ill afford to have down moments in Denver, where they are 9-36 all-time including playoffs. Milwaukee has lost four in a row overall to the Nuggets.
“We’ve just got to play our game,” Ellis said. “Go in there with a lot of intensity, be aggressive and hopefully come out with a win.”