Denver Nuggets coach George Karl isn't going to panic about his team's spot in the Western Conference standings, but his players are worried about their inconsistent play.
A game against the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats could quiet those concerns for at least one night.
The Nuggets continue their season-high seven-game road trip Friday when these teams meet for the only time in 2011-12.
Denver (27-24) is in ninth place in the West but has the same record as the two clubs in front of it - Utah and Houston.
"I've said it a thousand times, we have fought very hard to be in a good place and I still think we are in a good place," said Karl, whose team lost 105-96 to Toronto on Wednesday. "The schedule is difficult but it isn't impossible. There's going to be a lot of maneuvering."
That may be true, but if the Nuggets are going to stay in the playoff mix and avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2002-03, they'll need to string some wins together. Denver, a 108-91 winner at league-best Chicago on Monday, has lost its last six following a victory.
"For the past month we haven't had the proper focus after a good game," guard Arron Afflalo said Wednesday after scoring 15 points. "We've done a great job of bouncing back and recovering but usually when we win a game, we come out and lose that next one. That's a habit we can't afford at this point in the season."
While the Nuggets are trying to remain in playoff contention, the lowly Bobcats (7-41) are looking to end a five-game losing streak.
"We just got to go out there and keep playing hard and getting better," said rookie guard Kemba Walker, who scored 20 points in Wednesday's 88-83 loss to Minnesota. "That is all we can do right now for the rest of the season."
Walker could slide into the starting lineup Friday after D.J. Augustin missed Thursday's practice with a knee injury.
No matter who starts at point guard, the Bobcats will need to find a way to slow down Ty Lawson. The former North Carolina star has registered two of his highest-scoring games of 2011-12 this week with a season high-tying 27 points Monday and 26 on Wednesday.
Lawson, though, is averaging 6.3 points in four games against Charlotte.
The Bobcats, going for their fourth win in Denver's last five visits, could also be without forward Tyrus Thomas for a second straight game due to right elbow bursitis.
If Thomas can't go, DJ White would likely get the start alongside Corey Maggette, who finished with a team-best 22 points Wednesday.
The Bobcats are at the bottom of the NBA with 87.5 points per game and 41.6 percent shooting. They may be able to improve those numbers Friday, as the Nuggets' last six opponents have averaged 110.2 points and shot 49.3 percent from the field.
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