George Karl has been surprised at the speed at which the Denver Nuggets have rebuilt after the Carmelo Anthony trade.

The Nuggets have won 13 straight games and are in a virtual tie with the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

“I definitely think that the speed that we've built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me,” Karl said. “We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games.

“The team has evolved. It's worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they're good enough, that's what we're doing this year.”

The Nuggets hope to start the playoffs at home, where they own the best record in the NBA along with the Miami Heat at 30-3.

“I think the whole season was to get home court … I just want to be realistic,” Karl said. “If it comes the last 10 games of the season, that's a possibility, then that's cool. But right now, we're going to stay focused on the cliché of taking one game at a time, and also realizing that the home court is reachable and we don't have total control.

“We don't play Memphis or the Clippers anymore. All we've got to do is put a big number up (wins-wise), and if they catch it or beat it — if it's a high number in the mid-50s, then we've got to shake their hands and say congratulations and still be ready to play in the playoffs. But home court is something that, being a young team and having that in our back pocket (would be big). Most series, everybody wins on each other's home court. But to win twice here would be — not many people have that much of a chance.”