Nuggets-Bobcats Preview

The Associated Press

In a short period, the Denver Nuggets have gone from one of the league's hottest teams to suffering through their toughest stretch of the season.

The dismal play of the Charlotte Bobcats in their last game proves it could always be worse, though.

Denver looks to avoid a fifth consecutive road loss by defeating lowly Charlotte for the fourth straight time Saturday night.

The Nuggets surged to a nine-game winning streak from Jan. 20-Feb. 9, looking dominant at times while winning by an average of 12.5 points per contest. That momentum quickly faded, though, as they lost their last three games prior to the All-Star break - all on the road.

Following a 97-90 home win over Boston on Tuesday, Denver (34-22) fell 119-113 visiting a Washington team that entered with only 15 victories. It now will be looking to avoid its first five-game road skid since dropping six in a row from Dec. 8-28, 2009.

Ty Lawson, averaging 27.4 points over his last five, finished with 27 points and 12 assists while Wilson Chandler added 22 points off the bench for Denver, which has allowed an average of 116.3 points during the current road losing streak. It was giving up 102.1 points per game away from home prior to this stretch.

''I'm a little concerned that we don't respect the opponent on the road enough to think defense first and then worry about offense - because offense usually happens when we play defense," coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets haven't met much resistance, though, when facing the Bobcats recently, winning the last three meetings by an average of 21.0 points. Denver won the last matchup 110-88 on Dec. 22 despite Lawson going scoreless.

That contest accounted for one of 10 defeats by at least 20 points for league-worst Charlotte (13-42), which is coming off a 105-75 loss to Chicago on Friday.

The Bobcats, who have dropped 19 of their last 21 home games, shot 33.3 percent from the field, dropping them to an NBA-worst 42.0 percent on the season.

Kemba Walker scored 27 points, including half of the team's 38 in the second half. He's averaging 25.0 over his last three.

''We started off too late,'' Walker said. ''We have to kick it off from the jump. I blame myself. I had to set the tempo.''

Walker may have a tough time keeping his hot stretch rolling, though, as he has scored only 19 points combined while shooting 32.0 percent in two career games versus Denver.

Byron Mullens entered Friday's contest averaging 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds over his last four, but he hit only 1 of 12 from the field and finished with two points and four boards.

It seems unlikely the Bobcats can expect much of a contribution from Ben Gordon going forward after he didn't play for the first time since Dec. 26 despite being active.

Gordon had expressed his desire to be traded by Thursday's deadline, and it appears his role will continue to diminish through the second half of the season despite being Charlotte's highest-paid player.

''You're trying to develop a core, so you want to get those young guys minutes,'' coach Mike Dunlap said.

These teams have split eight all-time meetings in Charlotte.

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