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The Charlotte Hornets left on a six-game road trip 10 days ago with a winning record. They finish the trek in Denver on Thursday night hoping to salvage a 2-4 record on the trip and to remain above .500.

The Hornets have dropped four of their first five games since heading west, and while losing to good teams is not unexpected, getting routed is disappointing. In the four losses, Charlotte has been outscored by an average of 18.5 points and was blown out by 24 and 31 points.

The Hornets, coming off a 112-102 setback at Utah on Monday night, will face a Nuggets team playing the second game of a back-to-back set. Denver lost 108-94 at Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.

Charlotte’s slump has brought up a question of effort, especially at the start of games. In the four losses, the Hornets have been outscored 150-75 in the first quarter.

“At some level, there’s got to be action behind it,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said before the game at Salt Lake City. “We’ve talked enough about this. There’s no more talking here. It’s about action.

“I’ve got to do something lineup-wise or they are going to have to figure that out and go create a better response in the first quarter. We know it, and it’s just about action now. Period, enough talking about it. We’ve got to have some action behind it.”

Following those comments, the Hornets fell behind the Jazz by 21 points in the first quarter.

Charlotte did show some resiliency, rallying to take a one-point lead in the fourth before the Jazz closed it out. The Hornets played without Gordon Hayward in that game due to an ailing lower back, but he is available for Thursday night.

Cody Martin has not played the last two games after he was placed in NBA’s health and safety protocols, and the Hornets have already ruled him out for Thursday night.

The Nuggets are back home following a road trip that was shortened by COVID-19 issues. Their scheduled game at Brooklyn on Sunday was postponed due to virus issues with the Nets, so they had four days off before playing facing the Thunder on Wednesday night.

It gave the Nuggets a much-needed rest and a chance for some to recover.

“It was scary,” Denver guard Austin Rivers, who missed two weeks after contracting the virus, said over the weekend. “COVID’s the real deal. We have a lot of ignorant people out there who believe that this is nothing, but they compare it to the flu, but I’ve never seen the flu do what this is doing.”

Denver is dealing with another injury after guard Markus Howard sustained a knee sprain last week against Minnesota. Davon Reed was signed to a second 10-day contract.

The Nuggets looked rusty in their loss to the Thunder, and coach Michael Malone pulled his starters with 4:51 left in the third quarter and his team trailing by 16. Denver eventually went down by 23 before cutting the deficit to eight in the fourth quarter.

No Nugget logged more than Facu Campazzo’s 27 minutes off the bench, which means fatigue should not be a factor against Charlotte.

–Field Level Media