The Denver Nuggets are on the verge of their longest win streak of the season but that run has come mainly against teams with lackluster records.
That will change if the Nuggets can get past the visiting Golden State Warriors on Sunday night, and they might finally have Wilson Chandler available to help them out.
After splitting eight games, Denver has gotten back on track by averaging 107.0 points in its four consecutive wins but only one of those victories has come over a team that currently owns a winning record - Utah at 20-19. The Nuggets (22-16) needed a late surge to beat their third consecutive sub-.500 opponent Friday.
Ty Lawson hit a tiebreaking layup with 1:48 to go in a 98-91 victory over Cleveland and Danilo Gallinari sank a key 3-pointer with 34.9 seconds left. Gallinari finished with 23 points and Kosta Koufos had a career-high 21.
"It was an important shot and it was important that we got this win at home," said Gallinari, who is averaging a team-best 21.0 points during the win streak.
The Nuggets also needed a late push to top Orlando 108-105 on Wednesday and required some late free throws to fend off the Los Angeles Lakers for a 112-105 victory last Sunday.
Denver might not have the luxury of waiting to pull away when it faces Golden State (23-12), which is off to its best start since 1991-92. The Warriors, though, had endured their second set of back-to-back losses before edging Portland 103-97 on Friday.
David Lee had 24 points, matching his total from the previous two games, while Stephen Curry scored 22 despite missing 15 of 22 shots.
"We've got another tough task ahead of us, but we're looking forward to it. In an ideal world, you continue to play and keep putting check marks in the win column," said coach Mark Jackson, who won 23 games in his inaugural season with Golden State.
The Warriors will likely have a difficult challenge in Denver, which is 13-2 at home. Curry was held to six points in a 102-91 defeat there Nov. 23, their 15th loss in 17 visits.
Andre Iguodala, meanwhile, had a season-high 29 in that game, but he also had a buzzer-beating 3-pointer overturned on video review in a 106-105 loss at Golden State on Nov. 29. Iguodala had 22 points in that defeat while Lee scored a season-best 31 for the Warriors on 13-of-15 shooting.
Golden State ended a three-game skid to Denver with that victory and would like to spoil Chandler's expected return during this matchup. The swingman hasn't played since Nov. 12 because of problems with his surgically repaired hip.
Chandler, who spent a portion of last season playing in China, averaged 12.5 points in 21 games with Denver in 2010-11 after being acquired from New York.
"I'm just getting my strength back, and I feel pretty strong," he told the team's website. "I think now it's just getting my wind back. I know (Sunday) I'll be a little winded. I just have to fight through it."
Gallinari has scored at least 20 points in each of the three games against Golden State and he had six of his 21 in the final 36 seconds of double overtime in a 107-101 road win Nov. 10.
In the next matchup, Gallinari will try to lead Denver to its first five-game win streak since a six-game run Jan. 17-27.