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Hornets-Nuggets Preview

AP - Sports

Danilo Gallinari is encouraged by the Denver Nuggets' start to the season.

His recent play may also be playing a factor in that assessment.

Gallinari looks to build on one of the best scoring performances of his career as the Nuggets try to remain unbeaten at home in another meeting with the struggling New Orleans Hornets on Monday night.

Denver (6-3) is the highest scoring team in the Western Conference, averaging 104.0 points. The Nuggets have featured impressive balance, with six players averaging in double digits led by Gallinari's 16.9.

The Italian forward has scored at least 20 points in four of the last five games, averaging 20.6. He matched his career high with 31 points while hitting 10 of 16 shots - 3 for 4 from beyond the arc - in Saturday's 121-117 loss at San Antonio.

Although the Nuggets had their four-game winning streak snapped, Gallinari likes the team's potential after nearly erasing a 20-point deficit.

"We have the chance to have a really good team," he said. "When you can come back from 20 points against the Spurs, it means you are a really good team. We've just got to be more ready, more focused when we come out to start the game."

Gallinari and the Nuggets, however, needed to overcome a slow start against the Hornets (2-6) on Friday. The Nuggets gave up the first nine points before taking the lead for good in the fourth quarter, as Gallinari scored a game-high 23 points in a 96-88 win.

Hosting New Orleans may be just what Denver needs to make a quick return to the win column.

The Nuggets are averaging 112.5 points while winning 16 of their last 17 at Pepsi Center, including a six-game winning streak dating to last season.

They've won all four games there in 2011-12, holding opponents to 89.8 points per contest.

The Hornets, 1-3 on the road, are averaging a Western Conference-low 86.5 points, and have lost six in a row after falling 96-81 at Dallas on Saturday. They haven't endured a longer slide since dropping eight straight from Feb. 28-March 18, 2006.

New Orleans' chances of snapping its slide could be made much more difficult due to potential absences.

The Hornets were without guard Eric Gordon (bruised right knee) and forward Trevor Ariza (groin strain) on Saturday, while forward-center Jason Smith was with his family after the death of his grandmother.

It's unclear when any of them will be available.

New Orleans is also concluding a stretch of three games in four days.

"It's difficult. It's part of the season, part of the grind. Guys have injuries, personal problems to deal with," guard Jarrett Jack said. "Getting healthy is part of it. We need to get back our nucleus and get back on track. I'm not going to make excuses. We've got to learn as we go."

Jack is looking for a better effort from the floor after making 4 of 14 shots for 13 points against the Mavericks. He had 15 points versus Denver the previous night, and is averaging a team-leading 7.7 assists on the season.

The injury to Ariza has meant more playing time for Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a season-high 15 points and a career-best 12 rebounds Saturday.

Aminu, though, only managed six total points and five boards in the prior two games in place of Ariza.

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