Sandwiched between a pair of teams from the Lone Star State in the Western Conference playoff race, the Denver Nuggets seek a third straight win tonight against the New Orleans Hornets in the conclusion of a seven-game road trip.
The Nuggets are seventh in the conference standings -- one-half game ahead of Houston and one-half game behind Dallas. They are 3-3 so far on the road swing and squeezed out a 104-101 victory over the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic the previous time out on Sunday. Ty Lawson posted 12 of his 25 points in the second half and added nine assists, while Arron Afflalo scored 22 points to help Denver improve to 14-12 on the road.
Al Harrington and Andre Miller added 18 and 15 points, respectively, for Denver, which buried 55.6 percent of its shots. Still, head coach George Karl was somewhat pleased with the outcome.
"We didn't finish like we wanted to finish, but...I'm happy," Karl said.
Denver is 14-22 against conference opponents this season (15-2 vs. East), going 6-11 as the visitor in that stretch. Corey Brewer started at small forward for the Nuggets in place of Wilson Chandler, who has a groin strain and is questionable for this evening's tilt in the Big Easy.
The Nuggets will return to the Rocky Mountains after Wednesday's game and will host the Phoenix Suns at the Pepsi Center Friday.
New Orleans just went 1-4 on a five-game road trip and closed out the unsuccessful journey with a 92-75 loss at Phoenix on Sunday. Jason Smith and Marco Belinelli scored 14 points apiece to pace the shorthanded Hornets, who lost their last three games on the road trip and played with 10 players after having eight the previous two.
"We need to play our style of basketball. I didn't see that tonight," Hornets head coach Monty Williams said. "The only time I saw it was when we went into a zone. They missed a few times and we got back in the game a little bit, but we can't rely on zone to help us win games. We are a man-to-man defensive team and we are going to be that way as long as I am here."
Jarrett Jack had 13 points, five assists and four rebounds in the loss -- New Orleans' ninth in 12 tries. Chris Kaman had eight points and five rebounds in his return from a five-game absence due to an illness. The Hornets will play six of seven games at home and own a 5-21 record in the Big Easy.
The Hornets may get Eric Gordon back in the lineup tonight and he hasn't played since Jan. 4 versus Philadelphia because of a knee injury. Gordon was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Chris Paul deal in the offseason and is listed as questionable for tonight. Gordon, who can be seen on the latest commercial for Adidas shoes, is averaging 21.0 points in two games.
Forward Trevor Ariza (ankle) is probable, while forward Carl Landry (ankle) and Kaman (bronchitis) are questionable. Fellow big man Chris Johnson (concussion) is expected to miss Wednesday's game.
New Orleans and Denver will play the fourth and final meeting of the season tonight, and the Nuggets have won two of the three matchups so far. These two teams have split the last eight meetings at the Hornets.