Raptors-Nuggets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 02, 2012
The Denver Nuggets could be hosting the perfect opponent after a winless road stretch. The Nuggets have won eight straight at home against the Toronto Raptors heading into Monday night's matchup. Denver (8-9) was probably feeling good about itself one week ago heading into Utah with a four-game win streak. The Nuggets then blew halftime leads in Monday's defeat to the Jazz and Thursday's loss at Golden State before being blown out 122-103 by the Lakers on Friday. "I thought we fought up to a degree, but when they got it back up to 20, our gas tank was pretty empty," coach George Karl said after the loss in Los Angeles. The Nuggets will no doubt be targeting this contest since they start a five-game trip Wednesday in Atlanta. They haven't lost at home to Toronto (4-13) since an 81-74 defeat Dec. 30, 2003, winning the past eight meetings by an average of 19.7 points. The Raptors can probably relate to any sense of urgency the Nuggets may have. Toronto is starting a season-high five-game trip on the heels of Friday's 101-97 victory over Phoenix that ended a six-game slide. The Raptors had been 1-5 in games decided by five points or fewer. "I feel great,'' said point guard Jose Calderon, who had 13 points and nine assists. "We showed ourselves that we can win these types of games." DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 23 points while Amir Johnson added 16 off the bench. Johnson had totaled 20 points during the losing streak before finishing two off his season high against the Suns. The Raptors were in such good spirits afterward that coach Dwane Casey joked that the courtside presence of R&B singer and Toronto native Drake inspired Johnson. "He likes Drake's music a lot so he must have been excited," Casey said. "But Amir did a great job of battling, hitting the boards, defending, just doing a lot of the little things that we need him to do." Andrea Bargnani returned after sitting out Wednesday's loss at Memphis because of a sore left ankle. Bargnani only managed four points and took four shots. His Italian countryman, Danilo Gallinari of the Nuggets, has struggled to average 11.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting in five home games. Toronto is not a major threat from beyond the arc at 35.4 percent, and that's good news for Denver. The Nuggets are the third-worst team defensively against 3-point shooters at 39.5 percent after finishing at a league-worst 38.3 percent in 2011-12. The Lakers' 17 3-pointers Friday were a season high allowed by Denver. "We were last in the league last year as far as giving up 3-pointers," guard Andre Miller said. "This is our third or fourth game this year where we've given up 10 or more 3s. We preach keeping the ball out of the paint; we're trying to force teams to take tough contested jump shots." A matchup to watch will occur on the glass when Denver has possession. The Nuggets lead the NBA with 15.0 offensive rebounds per game while the Raptors are limiting foes to an average of 9.8 offensive boards for the league's second-best mark. The Nuggets have taken 14 of the last 16 overall from the Raptors.
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