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Nuggets-Bucks Preview: Tenth Time's A Charm

The Nuggets haven’t won since defeating Milwaukee 110-100 on Feb. 5.

For the second time this month, the Bucks (10-43) face the Nuggets (24-28) with more than just a win on the line.

When the two teams’ met back on Feb. 5 in Denver, Milwaukee was coming off of a thrilling 101-98 victory over the Knicks on Antetokounmpo Family Night. When they meet again Thursday, the Bucks will have another opportunity to accomplish something they haven’t been able to do all season: win back-to-back games.

Following that previous loss to the Nuggets, Milwaukee dropped its next three games heading into the All-Star break. But a 104-100 win over Orlando on Tuesday sets up what could be a monumental accomplishment for a team in search of any sort of momentum. As the record indicates, the Bucks are a dreadful 0-9 following victories this season, falling by an average of nearly 11 points per game.

While the Bucks enter Thursday’s matchup as hot as they’ve been all season (seriously), Denver is riding a five-game losing streak and hasn’t won since beating Milwaukee. The Nuggets have surrendered at least 112 points in each of the last five games, falling to 28th in the league in scoring defense at 104.6 points per game. Only the Lakers (105.6) and Sixers (110.5) allow more.

The absence of Ty Lawson is much to blame for Denver’s recent struggles. The diminutive point guard has missed the last three games after fracturing a rib against Detroit on Feb. 8. In the midst of arguably his best professional season (18.0 ppg, 8.8 apg, 3.5 rpg), Lawson is considered questionable to play Thursday.

With backup Nate Robinson out for the season, Randy Foye has been forced to slide down and play out of position. Usually the starting shooting guard, Foye has struggled mightily in Lawson’s absence, shooting a combined 8-for-36 with 13 turnovers in the last three games. In the month of January, where he played his natural two-guard spot, Foye put up 16.7 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor. Without Lawson, coach Brian Shaw has been forced to toy with his lineups, opting to start Jordan Hamilton at shooting guard with Wilson Chandler at the three.

In Tuesday’s loss to the Suns, Denver shot a paltry 38.4 percent from the field with just two players making at least 50 percent of their shots. Evan Fournier led the way with 25 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench, while Kenneth Faried chipped in 21 points and 10 boards.

The backcourt led the way in Milwaukee’s win over Orlando, as rookie Nate Wolters scored 15 points to go with seven rebounds and eight assists. Brandon Knight added 18 points (including 12-of-12 from the line) while playing through a cut on his heel. Caron Butler was the high scorer, netting 21 on 7-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.  Both Knight and Butler – who returned Tuesday after missing four games with a sprained ankle – were held out of practice Wednesday but are expected to ready to go Thursday.

Projected starters

Nuggets

C – J.J. Hickson

PF – Kenneth Faried

SF – Wilson Chandler

SG – Jordan Hamilton

PG – Randy Foye

Bucks

C – Zaza Pachulia

PF – Ersan Ilyasova

SF – Khris Middleton

SG – Nate Wolters

PG – Brandon Knight

Team rankings

Nuggets

Scoring: 11th (103.1)

Scoring defense: 28th (104.6)

Rebounding: 4th (45.5)

Assists: 13th (22.0)

Bucks

Scoring: 29th (92.5)

Scoring defense: 22nd (101.8)

Rebounding: 25th (41.2)

Assists: 17th (21.1)

Per-game leaders

Points: Lawson (18.0), Knight (16.7)

Assists: Lawson (8.8), Knight (5.0)

Rebounds: Hickson (9.4), Henson (8.0)

Blocks: Mozgov (1.2), Henson (2.2)

PER: Lawson (20.0), Henson (19.1)

Feb. 5 highlights

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASbBHtR594c

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Tags: Bucks Nuggets Preview Bucks Preview Gary Neal Larry Sanders Luke Ridnour Milwaukee Bucks Ty Lawson

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