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Bobcats-Nuggets Preview

AP - Sports

The Denver Nuggets have not had much trouble with the Charlotte Bobcats recently.

Al Jefferson wasn't on any of those Charlotte teams, however.

Jefferson will try to continue his torrid play when the Bobcats open a four-game trip against the Nuggets on Wednesday night.

Denver (22-21) has won by an average of 21.7 points in a four-game overall run in the series and by 20.0 per contest in Charlotte's last five visits.

The absence of Kemba Walker probably won't help matters as the Bobcats (19-27) try to stop those skids. Walker has missed four games - the first time in his career he's had to sit out - with a left ankle sprain. He's second on the team with 18.7 points per game.

That means Charlotte will have to rely mainly on Jefferson, who is averaging 26.8 points, 12.1 rebounds and 57.2 percent shooting, recording five double-doubles in his last eight.

''The guy has had three 30-point games, he's averaging over double-figure rebounds per game, he's scoring at, not just scoring but he's scoring so efficiently, and you know, we've played well," coach Steve Clifford said. "We're 4-4 with a very difficult schedule, eight games in 12 days. Well you guys watched it, that's an NBA player who knows how to play, playing at a really high level."

Jefferson, who signed with the Bobcats in the offseason, was hampered by an ankle injury in the preseason that kept him from being as productive early in his Charlotte career.

''At the beginning of the season, I wasn't healthy,'' Jefferson said. ''My ankle is feeling really good and I'm not surprised how I'm playing. I know I can play at a very high level when I'm 100 percent.''

Jefferson has also helped the club defensively, with Charlotte limiting opponents to an average of 37.0 points in the paint for one of the best marks in the league.

That's been an area of concern for Denver, which is yielding 45.1 points per game in the paint to rank among the worst in the NBA.

The Nuggets have finished in the top four in the league in scoring at home in each of the previous eight seasons. They are outside the top 10 this season, and have been more effective offensively on the road, averaging more points (104.7 to 103.2) and shooting a higher percentage (46.4 to 44.2).

Denver, though, is seeking a third straight win after a 125-117 victory at Sacramento on Sunday. Ty Lawson scored 27 points and Wilson Chandler added 20.

''We're starting to come around as a team,'' Chandler said. ''We're getting used to each other. We have 10 or 11 guys who can play and we don't lose a thing, no matter who is on the court.''

The Nuggets also got 43 points from their bench, which averages 41.2 to rank among the NBA leaders.

Denver begins a four-game homestand as it tries to move closer to playoff position.

''If we take care of business at home, we can really build some momentum,'' coach Brian Shaw said.

The Bobcats are eighth in the Eastern Conference and looking to avoid a third straight loss after an 89-87 defeat to Chicago on Saturday.

"We're playing better, we just went 2-2 for the week without Kemba with two really good wins," Clifford said. "I think that we're on the right track in terms of trying to make progress and get better."

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