Raptors-Nuggets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 26, 2012
The Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors both have leading scorers from Italy, but only one of those countrymen will be available Friday night. Danilo Gallinari and the surging Nuggets look for a sixth straight victory when they host a Raptors team that expects to be without Andrea Bargnani. Denver (13-5) is one of the biggest surprises in the NBA, with Gallinari averaging a career-high 17.7 points. He signed a four-year, $42 million contract extension Wednesday before scoring 21 of his 23 points in the first half of a 122-93 rout at Sacramento later that night. "The contract means a lot. It means this team, this franchise really believes in me,'' said Gallinari, who's averaged 27.0 points in his last three games. "I feel great about this team. It was easy for me to say yes to this contract." Bargnani, meanwhile, is averaging 23.5 points for Toronto (6-13). The sixth-year forward, however, reinjured his strained left calf late in Wednesday's 111-106 double-overtime win at Utah and wasn't optimistic about when he will be back on the court. "This time it's bad,'' Bargnani said. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to be out for a while." The Raptors ended a 12-game losing streak against the Jazz. Now they will try to end an eight-game slide against the Nuggets, as well as a run of seven straight defeats in Denver. "It's great to win after all those years for the franchise," point guard Jose Calderon said. "Hopefully I think Denver, we've kind of got to be in the same situation. I don't know if I won there, neither. That's the next one." Denver will return home in a confident mood after the first 5-0 road trip in franchise history. Six other Nuggets besides Gallinari also scored in double figures Wednesday, when Denver posted 92 points in the paint - the most since the NBA began keeping track of the statistic in 2000-01. "I like doing things that have never been done before," coach George Karl said. "Right now we have good energy, good focus, and guys are playing together." The Nuggets lead the league in scoring (106.4 points per game) and assists (24.7 per game). Andre Miller had 10 of Denver's 29 assists against the Kings. "The ball was moving tonight and the ball was going in the net,'' guard Ty Lawson said. "Everyone was touching the ball, everyone was sharing, and everyone was scoring. It was a fun game for us." Lawson wasn't around to see all of it, however. He left in the second quarter after spraining his left ankle and is expected to miss Friday's game. He hopes to return Sunday against the Clippers. Lawson's absence should help Toronto - the NBA's second-worst scoring team at 87.5 points per game - slow the pace a bit. They took advantage of Wednesday's extra sessions to top 100 for the first time in 18 games. Former Nuggets swingman Linas Kleiza scored a season-high 25 points. "Linas did a heckuva job," coach Dwane Casey said. "He really shot the ball well, he was aggressive offensively." Kleiza, who could replace Bargnani in the starting lineup, spent his first four seasons with Denver before signing with Toronto as a free agent before last season. This is his first game at Pepsi Center as a visitor after he missed last season's trip with a knee injury. The Raptors are seeking their first three-game win streak this season as well as their first three-game run on the road since Dec. 11-18, 2007.
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