Coach Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets face the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
CHARLOTTE -- The Charlotte Hornets will look for their first win over a Western Conference club this season against a team that hasn't lost in a while when they host the streaking Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
The Nuggets (17-7) have won seven in a row to gain the top spot in the Western standings, including three straight to open a five-game trip.
Denver needed overtime to survive Orlando on Wednesday after having toppled Portland and Toronto on the first two games of its trip.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone credited his guys for not getting too full of themselves after the wins at Portland and Toronto.
"The whole thing for us is trying to stay hungry and enjoying the process, enjoying the wins, but not forgetting why you're winning," Malone told reporters after the win at Orlando. "That's what we try to do with our guys all the time: Making sure we have the appropriate respect for who we're playing."
That might be harder to do against an 11-13 Charlotte team that's lost three straight, all to Western clubs -- Utah, New Orleans and Minnesota.
The Hornets are 0-4 against Western rivals this season, having also lost to Oklahoma City.
Charlotte tried a new look at Minnesota on Wednesday, giving Michael Kidd-Gilchrist his first start of the season in place of injured Marvin Williams.
Hornets coach James Borrego made it clear each upcoming opponent might see something different, with Miles Bridges and Frank Kaminsky being other options.
"I don't think we have an easy answer here. I don't think there's a perfect solution to this problem," he admitted. "We're just going to look different no matter who we go with, whether it's MKG or Miles or Frank. We have to adjust. Injuries force you to adjust on the fly."
Few teams know that better than the Nuggets, who have gone most of the season without Will Barton and three of the last five games without Gary Harris.
That's not to mention having not had Isaiah Thomas all season.
Juan Hernangomez and Torrey Craig combined for 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting as replacement starters against the Magic.
A meeting with the Hornets means a Hernangomez reunion, with Juan's brother Willy having started one game for Charlotte this season and come off the bench for at least 12 minutes on 13 other occasions.
Willy, who is one year older, had gotten the better of his brother statistically in their first two seasons in the NBA, totaling 833 points and 685 rebounds for the Knicks and Hornets, while Juan accumulated 387 points and 241 rebounds for the Nuggets.
But Juan has turned the tables so far this season, outscoring his brother 218-127 and outrebounding him 123-85.
Juan's Nuggets went 3-0 against the Knicks during the time Willy played in New York. The clubs have not met since he was traded to Charlotte last February.
The Nuggets and Hornets split their two-game season series last year, with each team recording a 17-point home win.