The Denver Nuggets probably would have preferred having their home win streak snapped in their last game in exchange for a healthy Danilo Gallinari heading into the postseason.
The Nuggets will play their first contest since learning Gallinari will be out for the season when they look to match a franchise record with a 20th straight home victory and end the Houston Rockets' four-game win streak Saturday night in this matchup of short-handed, high-scoring clubs.
The versatile forward tore his left ACL in Thursday's 95-94 home win over Dallas. Gallinari planted his left leg awkwardly in the first half and Friday's MRI confirmed the Nuggets' fears of a serious injury that will require a long rehabilitation.
"We're extremely disappointed for Gallo. He was having a career year in scoring and rebounding and was a huge reason for our success,'' said Masai Ujiri, the Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations. "We will obviously support him and be there for him throughout his recovery."
Gallinari's loss is a major blow. He's second on Denver (52-24) with 16.2 points per game and has a team-high 135 3-pointers.
Corey Brewer replaced Gallinari in the lineup late in the first half and scored a game-high 23 points, adding three big plays in the final 19 seconds that helped Denver improve to a NBA-best 34-3 at home.
"It's going to be tough on us,'' Brewer said, "but we've got to just keep playing hard."
Denver can match its longest home win streak, set from Jan. 9-March 30, 1985.
The Nuggets have won three straight - all without Ty Lawson, averaging a team-high 16.7 points. The point guard is out indefinitely with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot.
Denver, third in the league in scoring at 105.6 points, has won six straight over Houston - the league's highest-scoring team at 106.1. Sweeping the four-game season series could be tricky without Lawson and Gallinari, who each averaged 19.3 points in the first three 2012-13 matchups.
James Harden leads all players with 19.7 points per game when these teams have met, and he will be the focal point as Houston (43-33) tries for its third five-game win streak of the season.
That will be even more the case since Rockets' second-leading scorer Chandler Parsons is expected to miss a second straight game with a right calf injury. Guard Carlos Delfino has missed the last two games, sitting out Friday's 116-98 victory at Portland with the flu.
Harden picked up the slack with 33 points in his second game back after missing two with a foot injury. Jeremy Lin had 22 points and eight assists, just missing a third straight double-double.
"We did a pretty good job of staying aggressive and taking the ball to the basket," Harden said. "We were getting in the paint and staying in attack mode.''
Houston, which is 6-13 in the second half of back-to-back games, reduced its magic number to two for a playoff spot. It trails sixth-place Golden State by one game in the Western Conference standings.
Denver is in third place, one game ahead of Memphis and two in front of the Los Angeles Clippers.