Denver looks to end three-game slide against NBA's hottest team
With eight straight wins, the Memphis Grizzlies are in uncharted territory.
Memphis (8-1) owns the best record in the NBA for the first time in the franchise's 17-year history, and it will look to keep rolling during a five-game homestand against struggling teams that starts with the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
The Grizzlies picked up double-digit victories over Miami, Oklahoma City and New York in a six-day span before beating Charlotte 94-87 on Saturday. Memphis snapped the Bobcats' three-game winning streak, 24 hours after dealing the Knicks their first loss.
After Denver, the Grizzlies face the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit. None of those teams has a record over .500.
Balance has been a big reason for Memphis' success. Rudy Gay leads the team with 19.8 points per game, but three other players are averaging in double figures. Six Grizzlies have led the team in scoring at least once.
"I think these last two games have really distinguished what kind of personality this team has right now," said point guard Mike Conley, who scored a game-high 20 against the Bobcats. "We're really playing together as a team."
Every Memphis starter scored at least 12 on Saturday.
The Grizzlies are averaging more than 25 free-throw attempts - near the top of the league - and making 82.4 percent of them. Memphis is also forcing 16.2 turnovers a game, having recorded at least 10 in 113 consecutive contests for the longest active streak in the NBA.
The Grizzlies scored 25 points off 18 Charlotte turnovers.
"We've been playing extremely well and defending as a team," coach Lionel Hollins said. "That was the key to us winning tonight."
The Nuggets (4-6) have lost three straight for the second time this season, falling 126-100 at San Antonio on Saturday for their most lopsided defeat of 2012-13. Denver allowed the Spurs to make 16 3-pointers.
"We never covered the ball so we had to help," coach George Karl said. "(The Spurs) moved the ball on the perimeter great. We have some guys that need to work a little better on defending, so we just need to learn how to defend out there much better."
Starters Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari have struggled to find their shooting touch. Lawson is making 38.3 percent from the field while Gallinari is hitting 34.4 percent, including a team-worst 21.4 from 3-point range.
Kenneth Faried has been one of the team's most reliable players after a slow start, averaging 16.6 points and 12.4 rebounds since the first two games.
"Personally I'm going to continue to do what I have to and I'm going to make sure my teammates follow suit," Faried told the Nuggets' official website. "We're going to play hard. My teammates believe that if we run and rebound and defend the three, we're going to be fine."
Memphis swept the three-game series with Denver last season, doing so by a total of seven points.
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NUGGETS AT GRIZZLIES
WHEN: 6 p.m. MT
WHERE: FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn.
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950
F Danilo Gallinari
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Ty Lawson
F Rudy Gay
F Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol
G Tony Allen
G Mike Conley
DENVER: Wilson Chandler (hip) and Julyan Stone (hip) are out.
MEMPHIS: Darrell Arther (leg) is day-to-day.
Denver has won 12 of the last 17 games overall against Memphis . . . The Nuggets have played well in Memphis in recent years, having won eight of the last 14 meetings with the Grizzlies in Memphis since 2004-05, including five of the last nine . . . The Nuggets have owned the Grizzlies in Denver, having won 24 of the last 26 home games against Memphis since the 1998-99 season (including eight of the last nine) . . . 2011-12 was the first time in five years that Denver didn’t win the season series . . . Denver has won the series six times in the last eight years . . . Memphis’ Zach Randolph is the last Nuggets individual opponent to register a 20/20 game during the regular season (had 32 points and 24 rebounds at Memphis on 12/20/09)