NBA PREVIEW

Nuggets aim to bounce back when they visit Hornets

Field Level Media

March 04, 2020 at 8:24 pm.

Inconsistency describes the way the season has gone for the Charlotte Hornets.

Now the Denver Nuggets have a case of inconsistencies, and they figure it’s time to stop those when the two teams meet Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C.

“We’re 3-3 since the All-Star break and we’re not playing well at either end of the floor right now and we have to find a way to fix that,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

The Nuggets have had recent highs and lows. They knocked off the Toronto Raptors on Sunday and followed that with Tuesday night’s 116-100 home loss to the NBA-worst Golden State Warriors.

Among Malone’s biggest gripes is a severe dip defensively since the break.

“We’ve shown it, we’ve proven it. We’ve shown we can be a very good defensive team,” Malone said. “If we think we can rely on a top-five offense and be bottom-five defense, it will be a very, very short postseason.”

He pointed out to the team that it rates in the bottom two defensively in the league across the past six games.

“You’re going nowhere fast if that continues to happen,” Malone said.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said it’s a small sample size, albeit disturbing.

“It’s a bad stretch or whatever,” Jokic said. “… or maybe that’s us (and who we are).”

The Hornets have had wavering performances as well. That included a road victory at Toronto, then home losses to Milwaukee and San Antonio.

Tuesday night’s 104-103 loss to the Spurs was puzzling in some ways because it came following such a solid stretch and also included 17 turnovers.

“We’ll be back,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of a stringing defeats. “We had a shot to win at the end. We have to keep putting ourselves in these positions.”

The Nuggets know that the level of competition often doesn’t dictate results.

“We’ve shown that we can beat the best teams record-wise and that we can lose to the worst teams record-wise,” Jokic said.

Both teams were unable to hold leads Tuesday night in their respective games, Denver up by 15 and Charlotte leading by 17.

“That’s one of the things we have to learn that when we’re up a lot, continue to play our way,” Hornets center Cody Zeller said. “Again, it’s kind of the growing pains this year. … In this league, there are a lot of big runs and a lot of swings.”

The Nuggets are averaging more than 16 turnovers per game since the All-Star break. Some of that might be related to indecisiveness with the ball.

“I think sometimes just taking a little bit more (time) can confuse everybody on the floor,” Jokic said.

The Hornets were without scoring leader Devonte’ Graham on Tuesday night. The guard sat out with an ankle injury, which was suffered Sunday when he posted a team-best 17 points against Milwaukee.

“If he’s not healthy and ready to go, we won’t play him,” Borrego said. “We’re not going to risk it. We want him back as soon as possible, but if not we’ll run with the same group.”

Borrego said playing without Graham might have contributed to some of Charlotte’s turnover issues. The Hornets used Cody Martin in the lineup for just his second career start.