The Denver Nuggets are on the verge of matching their longest win streak since leaving the ABA but have not visited an opponent with a winning record during this run.
That’s what they face if they want to keep it going Monday night, taking on a short-handed Chicago Bulls team looking to tie its longest home winning streak of the season.
Denver (45-22) has won 12 in a row only once - March 10-April 2, 1982 - since joining the NBA for the 1976-77 season. The Nuggets’ best ABA win streak was 15 games in 1969-70.
Their current run reached 11 on Friday, scoring nine of the final 11 points in an 87-80 win over visiting Memphis. Kosta Koufos led the way with 18 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
Denver outscored the Grizzlies 29-14 in the fourth quarter to move into a virtual tie with them for fourth place in the Western Conference.
“You grow playing these kinds of games,” said Danilo Gallinari who had 15 points and made the tiebreaking free throws with 2:13 remaining. “You cannot grow a lot when you’re blowing out a team by 20 or 30. These are the kind of games that make you improve as a team.”
The Nuggets have won by an average of 12.3 points during the streak and blew out their next opponent not long before starting the run. Former DePaul standout Wilson Chandler scored 24 points and Kenneth Faried added 21 with 12 rebounds in a 128-96 rout of the Bulls on Feb. 7 at the Pepsi Center.
Denver, though, has played only four road games during this win streak and they were all against sub-.500 competition. The Nuggets haven’t won on the road against a team with a winning record since beating Houston on Jan. 23. They’re 15-19 away from home overall with only six victories over teams that are currently .500 or better.
They may have a good chance for another such win considering the Bulls (36-29) remain banged-up. They’re still awaiting superstar Derrick Rose’s return from knee surgery, and they’ve also been playing without forward Taj Gibson (knee) as well as veteran guards Richard Hamilton (back) and Kirk Hinrich (foot).
The Bulls had lost four of five without them before defeating Golden State 113-95 on Friday. Luol Deng Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson each scored 20 or more points for Chicago, which shot 51.8 percent after being held under 39.0 for four straight games.
“I do know we have pride,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve taken a hit. We’ve lost some guys along the way. Our guys will battle. We know that we’re short-handed. But if we have the right intensity and we do it collectively, we have a chance. And we’ve shown it throughout the year.”
Thibodeau’s team has won three straight home games, its longest win streak at the Untied Center this season other than a four-game run Jan. 21-28. The last two victories came over above-.500 teams Brooklyn and Utah.
Denver has won three straight in the series as Ty Lawson has averaged 20.0 points, including 27 in a 108-91 victory in Chicago on March 26.
Koufos has reached double figures in rebounds in a season-high three straight games and now battles Joakim Noah who has averaged 13.3 boards over his last eight.