Denver (20-12) at Toronto (12-19)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Toronto, ON
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Wed Dec 31, 2008
  • TV: ALT2, SCOR
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Battling through an elbow injury, Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony struggled with his shot during a three-game losing streak two weeks ago before taking several games off to let his arm heal.

After an auspicious return, Anthony delivered one of his worst shooting performances of the season his last time out.

Anthony and the Nuggets hope to bounce back from another frustrating outing Wednesday night when they try to continue their success against the Toronto Raptors, who are returning home from a taxing six-game road trip.

Denver (20-12) went 16-4 from Nov. 7-Dec. 15, but the Nuggets’ hot streak came to an abrupt end when the team dropped three straight from Dec. 16-20. Anthony, who shot a career-best 49.2 percent from the field last season, was 16-for-46 (34.8) during the skid.

Elbow problems were at least partially responsible for those struggles, and the two-time All-Star decided to rest instead of continuing to play through the pain. The three-game break looked like a smart decision as Anthony returned and went 13-for-19 from the field in a 117-110 win in New York on Sunday, but he followed that with a 4-for-17 performance in a 109-91 loss at Atlanta Monday night.

He didn’t indicate whether or not his struggles were related to lingering pain in his elbow.

While Anthony’s tough outing didn’t help, Nuggets coach George Karl saw plenty of room for improvement elsewhere in that loss.

“We simply ran out of gas,” he said after his team was outscored 55-38 in the second half, including 31-20 in the fourth quarter. “We didn’t do enough fundamental things well, and we fell apart in the fourth quarter. When you don’t pass the ball as you should, you’re not going to beat the good teams.”

The Raptors (12-19) came into this season expecting to fall under that category, but they’ve lost 12 of their last 16. They’re coming off a 12-day road trip during which they lost four of six games, capped by a 117-111 defeat to Golden State on Monday night.

Chris Bosh had 30 points and 14 rebounds and Jose Calderon added 21 points and 16 assists, but Toronto missed several open 3-pointers in the final minutes, perhaps an indication of their fatigue.

“We’re getting closer, but we’ve got to start winning, too,” Calderon said. “We can’t be getting closer every day and losing. … We’re going to keep working together for sure, but we’ve got to start winning games.”

Toronto coach Jay Triano, who’s 4-10 since taking over for the fired Sam Mitchell, thinks his team will benefit from a return home.

“Not so much for our technical or tactical stuff, I want our guys to get some reps shooting,” he said. “You can shoot at shootaround or the day of an off-day between games, but it’s not the same. We need to get in and just get volume shots up. We have good shooters. We’ve just got to start making them.”

As relieving as it may be to be back from the extended trip, the Raptors haven’t fared much better at home, where they’re 5-8 after going 55-27 the previous two seasons. They’re in danger of losing four straight at Air Canada Centre for the first time since a five-game skid March 29-April 9, 2006.

The Nuggets have won three of their last four games in Toronto, and eight of nine overall against the Raptors since the beginning of the 2004-05 season.

Chauncey Billups had 24 points and 14 assists in Denver’s 132-93 home win over Toronto on Dec. 2 - the fifth-worst loss in Raptors franchise history and tied for the fifth-largest win in Nuggets history.

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Wednesday, Dec 31