Cody Zeller scores 21, Hornets rout Nuggets 104-86
DENVER (AP) Cody Zeller scored a career-best 21 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 17 and the Charlotte Hornets routed the reeling Denver Nuggets 104-86 on Saturday night.
Al Jefferson and Jason Maxiell added 14 points apiece for the Hornets, who have won 10 of their last 13 games.
They have held their opponents to under 100 points in 12 of those games. And their solid play has continued in the absence of Kemba Walker, who underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will be out at least six weeks.
Danilo Gallinari's 15 points led the Nuggets, who were dealt a blow before the game. Star forward Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur, a key reserve, were both held out because of illness.
In the meantime, the Hornets were running circles around the Nuggets who were on the floor.
Charlotte began pulling away with a 12-0 burst in the last 3:05 of the first quarter. Zeller had six points in the stretch including a pair of dunks.
By halftime, the Hornets had opened a 32-point lead over the Nuggets, who lost for the ninth time in 10 games. It was Denver's fourth loss in a row to the Hornets, who swept the season series for a second year in a row.
In one second-quarter stretch, Charlotte scored 14 unanswered points and closed the last 2:29 of the period with a 10-4 flurry that included an alley-oop dunk by Kidd-Gilchrist off a lob from Gary Neal. One of Denver's 12 turnovers ignited the flashy fast break and moments later, the crowd showered the Nuggets with a cascade of boos as they trudged into the locker room at the break.
Denver outscored Charlotte 22-18 in the third quarter but it was too little to make much headway against Charlotte's double-digit lead.
Hornets: Marvin Williams was ruled out for a second straight game because of a concussion. ... The Hornets beat a Western Conference team on the road for only the second time in 10 games this season. ... Zeller's previous scoring high was 20 points against Boston on Jan. 5.
Nuggets: JaVale McGee is gradually working his way back into form from the lower leg strain that sidelined him for seven weeks. In his second game back, he shook off a missed dunk to start the night and finished with eight points in just under 16 minutes of play. ... The Nuggets' 30-point first half wasn't their worst this season, but it was close. They were held to 28 first-half points two weeks ago by Golden State.
Hornets: At Washington on Monday.
Nuggets: At Philadelphia on Tuesday.