Denver Nuggets start new year against NBA's hottest team
L.A. Clippers, winners of 17 straight, visit Pepsi Center to open 2013
As they prepare to face the hottest team in the NBA, the Denver Nuggets are looking to put together a run of their own.
The Nuggets will try to stop Los Angeles Clippers’ 17-game winning streak when the two teams open 2013 Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. After playing 22 of 32 games on the road, Denver (17-15) is opening a stretch of 15 of 18 at home.
“We haven’t been here that much and it’s an opportunity to catch up in the standings,” Nuggets point guard Andre Miller said after practice Monday. “This is a big month, a crucial month, for us as far as telling where we’re going to end up the rest of the season.”
The Nuggets, currently seventh in the Western Conference, will be looking to avenge a Christmas Day loss to the Clippers (25-6), who scored 42 points in the second quarter during a 112-100 victory at Staples Center.
Los Angeles reserves Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe combined for 56 points in the win, and Denver committed 18 turnovers that led to 19 points.
“We just played a little bit soft,” Miller said. “We talked about how aggressive they were on defense. We respected their bench, but they came out and did a lot more than we expected. It’s definitely going to be a good game.”
While the Clippers haven’t lost since Nov. 26, the Nuggets have won seven straight games at Pepsi Center – a streak that spans more than five weeks. Now that the schedule turns in Denver’s favor, coach George Karl emphasized the importance of the upcoming stretch.
“We can’t afford to slip or make a mistake,” Karl said. “We have to be ready for the challenge of winning games. We have to win a minimum of 10 in the month of January, and hopefully a few more.”
When the schedule was released in July, Karl and his staff were targeting 17 to 18 wins by New Year’s Day. The Nuggets hit the mark by winning eight road games and going an NBA-best 9-1 at home.
“Most people know that the record we have was what I was hoping for,” Karl said. “There’s an argument we could’ve gotten one or two more. In the same sense, we probably stole one or two that we shouldn’t have got.”
Having survived the road-heavy first two months of the season, the Nuggets are hoping to follow in the footsteps of their NFL neighbors who play at nearby Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Denver Broncos started the year 2-3 before reeling off 11 straight wins to capture the top seed in the AFC.
Though Karl is a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan, he believes in the positive energy generated by a successful team.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I’ve always felt that when the city has an electricity in a sport – any sport – you get a residual effect to the other sports. Hopefully they can win the Super Bowl and we can take the energy of the city and turn it into a great finish for us in the springtime.”
The journey starts in earnest Tuesday against the Clippers.
CLIPPERS AT NUGGETS
WHEN: 7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude, NBA TV; 104.3 FM, AM-950
F Caron Butler
F Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan
G Willie Green
G Chris Paul
DENVER: Wilson Chandler (hip) and Julyan Stone (hip) are out.
LOS ANGELES: Chauncey Billups (foot), Grant Hill (knee), Trey Thompkins (knee).
The Nuggets have won 14 of the last 23 games overall against the Clippers since 2006-07, with seven of the nine losses coming on the road in Los Angeles (12-2 at home, 2-7 on road) … Denver has played the Clippers solidly in Los Angeles in recent years, having gone 5-7 against the Clip-joint at STAPLES Center over the past seven seasons … Denver has claimed five season series wins over Los Angeles in the last eight seasons … The 2010-11 season marked the first 2-2 series split between these teams since the 2003-04 season, not to mention only the fourth since 1993-94 … The Nuggets currently own an all-time winning percentage of .553 (83-67) against the Clippers, which stands as the best mark for Denver against any opponent in the NBA with at least 100 meetings between them.