Two of the league's most disappointing teams square off in Salt Lake City on Monday night when Denver tries to double its victory total and keep Utah the NBA's only winless team.
The Nuggets had the fourth-best record in the league last season at 57-25, but a fourth straight first-round exit in the playoffs cost coach George Karl his job. Though it may be too early to regret that decision, management can't be pleased that new coach Brian Shaw has Denver (1-4) off to its worst start since 2004. Now the team is at risk of going six games into a season without winning more than once for the first time in 15 years.
"I am at a loss of words from the lack of energy from some of our rotation guys," Shaw said after Friday's 114-103 loss to Phoenix. "... I will go down the bench and find the guys who want to play."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is growing similarly frustrated.
While Denver joins Sacramento as the NBA's only one-win teams, Corbin's club is the only one without a victory. After finishing two wins shy of making the 2013 playoffs at 43-39, Utah (0-7) is mired in its worst start since opening its inaugural 1974-75 season with 11 consecutive defeats.
"If we lose games fighting and competing, we can deal with that," Corbin said. "But we don't want to come in and just show up and think it's going to happen. We've got to make it happen."
The Jazz ended a four-game road trip with consecutive 24-point losses at Chicago on Friday and Toronto the next night.
"This ain't cool," guard John Lucas said. "I know it's seven games in, but still. I don't want anybody getting used to this."
The Jazz are shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 23.6 percent on 3-pointers - both worst in the league.
Gordon Hayward may have been the only bright spot on the road trip, averaging 22.3 points.
"We're searching for the answer," Hayward said. "We've got to keep working and try to get through this rough patch. We're struggling."
While Utah's biggest problems have been on offense, Denver's woes are due greatly to poor defense. The Nuggets have given up an average of 109.0 points in the last four games and are among the NBA's worst at forcing turnovers this season at 13.6 per game.
That defense could be further weakened with the news Sunday that center JaVale McGee is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his lower left leg. McGee, among the league leaders in blocks the past three seasons, will likely be replaced in the starting lineupby Timofey Mosgov with J.J. Hickson also possibly getting increased minutes.
Fellow big man Kenneth Faried has had his minutes limited by a hamstring injury suffered in the preseason. He's scored seven points on 3-of-10 shooting over the past two games.
Faried averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in last season's four meetings with Utah. The Nuggets won three of those games - all by at least 17 points - and its only loss was by two.
Denver's Ty Lawson has scored at least 20 in all five games this season but hasn't reached that mark in his last seven matchups with Utah.
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