Nuggets-Bucks Preview


Considering the Denver Nuggets are taking on the league's worst team and one they have dominated lately, a visit to Milwaukee could be just what they need to end their slump.

Facing the last team they beat, the Nuggets can avoid a sixth straight defeat by extending their winning streak over the Bucks to eight games Thursday night.

Denver (24-28) entered the All-Star break after being swept on a four-game trip during which it lost by an average of 27.5 points, shooting 39.8 percent while letting opponents hit 54.2. Despite shooting 38.4 percent, the Nuggets were more competitive out of the break Tuesday at home but couldn't hold a late lead in regulation in a 112-107 overtime loss to Phoenix.

"I think we did a pretty good job of staying together and playing hard - playing as a team and we have to keep going that way," said second-year guard Evan Fournier, who set career highs with 25 points and eight rebounds.

Hit hard by injuries to veterans Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee and Nate Robinson, and with Andre Miller a possible trade option before Thursday's deadline, the Nuggets are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.

Leading scorer Ty Lawson (18.0 points per game) is likely to miss a fourth straight game with a fractured rib, but that won't prevent the Nuggets from putting forth another maximum effort.

"That was one of the things we emphasized over the last few days, was that (we needed to) go out and compete," said coach Brian Shaw, whose team hasn't won since a 110-100 victory over Milwaukee on Feb. 5.

Wilson Chandler scored seven of his 24 points in the final 1:52 of that win while Randy Foye finished with 20, but he's totaled 27 points on 8-of-36 shooting in the last three games.

The Nuggets now look to avoid losing five straight on the road for the first time since a six-game skid in 2009-10, also the last season in which they lost to Milwaukee (10-43).

The Bucks, however, will try to win two straight contests for the first time since March 17-19 after snapping a four-game slide with a 104-100 home win over Orlando on Tuesday. Nate Wolters hit a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left to help Milwaukee improve to 3-19 in 2014.

"Hopefully we can build on this and win a couple in a row here," said Wolters, who had 15 points and eight assists. "We can look at (the post-All-Star break) as a new season."

With Milwaukee at the bottom of the NBA standings, coach Larry Drew continues to give more minutes to Wolters and fellow rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. Wolters missed 26 of his first 29 attempts from 3-point range this season but is 5 for 11 in the last four games.

Second-year forward Khris Middleton, who had 25 points at Denver this month, twisted his ankle early in Tuesday's game but returned.

Teammate O.J. Mayo hopes to play after sitting out 10 games with an illness and conditioning issues. Larry Sanders, who set season highs with 25 points and 15 rebounds at Denver earlier this month, could miss his fourth straight with a fractured orbital bone.