The last time the Denver Nuggets lost consecutive games, it lit a fire that led to 19 victories in a stretch of 22 games, with the team’s latest chance for a rebound on Tuesday when the New Orleans Pelicans pay a visit.
Since an out-of-character three-game skid in early December, Denver has been one of the best teams in the NBA, although the team is in the midst of another hiccup.
The Nuggets dropped a game 107-99 in Milwaukee on Wednesday, when four of their five starters did not dress, and then failed to redeem themselves in a 126-119 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
The Nuggets still sit atop the Western Conference and can solidify that position with four of their next five games at home, where they are 22-4. They start the stretch with slumping New Orleans, which has lost eight in a row and dropped from near the top of the conference to eighth place.
Denver’s losing streak could be at four and counting if not for escaping with a 99-98 win at New Orleans on Jan. 24. Nikola Jokic returned from a two-game absence because of a hamstring injury and hit the winning shot in the lane with 16.9 seconds left to rescue the Nuggets.
The loss to the 76ers on Saturday came after the Nuggets led by 15 late in the third quarter. A defensive collapse the rest of the way proved costly.
The bright spot in the loss was the return of Michael Porter Jr., who had been away from the team for three games to tend to a family matter. Porter’s brother, Coban, was arrested after an alleged involvement in a fatal crash in Denver last weekend.
Porter scored 20 points in 29 minutes and gave the Nuggets some needed outside shooting.
“It was good to see him,” the Nuggets’ Jeff Green said. “I know for him, it was just good to be around the team, mentally, to keep him sane.”
New Orleans has been scuffling in part due to injuries. Zion Williamson (hamstring) hasn’t played since Jan. 2 and is expected to be out until early February, while CJ McCollum (thumb) and Brandon Ingram (toe) missed Sunday’s 135-110 loss at Milwaukee.
Ingram is expected to play Tuesday, taking the court for the third time in four games after missing 29 contests with the toe injury.
The Pelicans are trying to keep things in perspective during their losing streak.
“It’s never fun to lose games,” Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas said. “We just gotta stick together. First of all, we got to look in the mirror and say what can I do better. There’s no time to point fingers or do something like that.
“Strong teams do well through these tough moments. Weak teams start pointing at each other. I think we are a strong team and tough times are building our character as well.”
Tuesday will be the third of four games between the teams this season. New Orleans earned a 121-106 victory on Dec. 4 when Denver was in the midst of its three-game skid. The teams wrap up the season series on March 30 at Denver.