The Denver Nuggets want more energy to avoid another disappointing result.
They might be going up against the right opponent to turn things around as they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night. The Hornets have lost six games in a row.
The Nuggets began a three-game road trip with a 115-104 loss to the Orlando Magic on Thursday despite Aaron Gordon’s season-high 37 points.
“They turned up their aggressiveness (and) physicality, and we never responded,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “The message was simple at halftime: We’re not playing hard enough.”
Denver is generally a high-scoring team, eclipsing the 120-point mark in four of its previous five games before the loss to the Magic.
“Losing sucks, but I can take a loss where your guys leave it all out there and you play hard,” Malone said. “Hopefully against Charlotte, we can find a way to play with a lot more effort, play with a lot more urgency.”
With Denver owning a 12-14 road record, Malone said a goal should be reaching .500 in that category by the end of the trip. The Nuggets might be short-handed on Saturday, though. Gordon is listed as questionable due to a left rib contusion, and Jamal Murray, who has missed the past three games because of right knee inflammation, also in questionable.
The Hornets lost 127-116 on Friday night to the host Boston Celtics, so three of their losses in the skid have been by double digits.
“The effort for the most part all year has been really the strength,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “We just can’t have those lapses of play.”
The problems were mostly on defense as the Hornets allowed the Celtics to connect on 25 shots from 3-point range, the most by a Charlotte opponent this season.
That ought to be good news for Denver, which hit only 10 of 33 shots from beyond the arc against Orlando. Most glaring was Michael Porter Jr. going 3-for-12 from long distance (and 3-for-16 overall), but he has the green light to keep attempting those.
“I felt a lot of his looks were really good looks,” Malone said. “We know the type of shooter that Michael is. When he’s open, we want him shooting the ball. He has got to shoot the ball. He has shown in his career in the NBA he is an efficient scorer and shooter from the 3-point line.”
It wasn’t just the perimeter areas that troubled the Nuggets. Orlando held a 56-10 edge in bench points, something that Malone said is difficult to overcome.
Some of that could be remedied by the addition of center Thomas Bryant, whom the Nuggets acquired Thursday in a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Denver defeated Charlotte 119-115 on Dec. 18 at home with Nikola Jokic racking up 40 points, 27 rebounds and 10 assists. Jokic had a string of four triple-doubles snapped Thursday, but he still registered 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Hornets will be regrouping in the post while playing their second game without center Mason Plumlee, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers this week.
On the plus side, rookie center Mark Williams had a double-double through three quarters in Boston in his first NBA start, and he finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“He’s got a great attitude and he’ll learn quickly,” Clifford said. “He’s going to be a good player. It’s day-to-day here (with the rotation).”
–Field Level Media