Nuggets-Wizards Preview

With George Karl joining them on the bench, the Denver Nuggets

gave an inspired effort against the Eastern Conference’s top

team.

The Nuggets coach is expected to lead the team again Friday

night in a bid for a sixth straight win over one of the East’s

worst clubs, the host Washington Wizards.

In his Karl’s first game since disclosing he has neck and throat

cancer, the Nuggets snapped Cleveland’s 13-game win streak with

Thursday night’s 118-116 overtime victory. Carmelo Anthony

outdueled Cavaliers’ star LeBron James and capped a 40-point night

by nailing the go-ahead basket with 1.9 seconds left.

During the win, Karl was battling nausea and headaches stemming

from undergoing chemotherapy Tuesday,

“This boosted his spirit up a lot,” Anthony said. “In the back

of our mind, we know his situation. We’re playing for him.”

The Nuggets coach, who recently signed a contract extension,

will have to sit out some games and practices during a rigorous

six-week treatment regimen. He’s expected to miss Denver’s game at

Golden State on Feb. 25 and in Minnesota on March 10, but he’s

hoping to complete his recovery in time for the playoffs.

Karl said being on the sidelines will help in his second battle

with cancer.

“It’s going to be my sanctuary to do what I like to do and

forget maybe the things that are always going to pop into your

mind,” said Karl, who overcame prostate cancer in 2005.

With the win, the Nuggets (36-18) pushed their Northwest

Division lead over Utah to 1 1/2 games but could use their first

back-to-back victories since Jan. 31-Feb. 1. They’ve alternated

losses and wins in the past six contests.

With a fifth playoff berth in six seasons slipping out of reach,

the Wizards (18-33) have begun building for next season.

Washington began that stretch Saturday by sending Caron Butler,

DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood to Dallas for four players,

including Josh Howard.

Four days later, the Wizards shipped star forward Antawn Jamison

to Cleveland. Among the players they got in return in the

three-team deal were Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Al Thornton.

Before Thursday’s trading deadline, they sent Dominic McGuire to

Sacramento for a second-round draft pick and cash

considerations.

The moves cleared enough salary cap space for the Wizards, who

may not have suspended guard Gilbert Arenas back before the start

of next season, to go after a marquee free agent. Among those

prized players who could be available are James, Dwyane Wade, Chris

Bosh and Joe Johnson.

“Unfortunately, our on-court results have not met our

expectations,” general manager Ernie Grunfeld told the team’s Web

site. “We felt it was necessary to make changes to improve our

future and financial flexibility.”

Amid those changes, Andray Blatche scored a career-high 33

points to lead Washington to a 108-99 victory over visiting

Minnesota on Wednesday night.

It’s unknown how much of the Wizards’ revamped lineup will be

available to coach Flip Saunders as Washington tries to also end a

three-game home streak to the Nuggets.

Anthony has scored at least 20 points in all but one of his 11

career games against Washington and is averaging 32.2 points on

59.6 percent shooting in his last five matchups.