Following a successful stretch, the Denver Nuggets had trouble with two of the Eastern Conference’s best clubs. They might have a better result against one of the East’s worst teams.
While attempting to maintain their playoff position, the Nuggets will try to continue their dominance of the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
Denver (41-29) had won 10 of 12 and the first two of a four-game road trip before it played against Orlando on Friday. The Nuggets fell 85-82 in that game on a 3-pointer as time expired and followed with a 103-98 loss the next evening to Southeast Division-leading Miami.
“I felt we were trying to search for our personality rather than knowing our personality,” coach George Karl said. “When you are playing a team and their best players are having great games, you are just searching for too many answers.”
If recent history is an indication, Denver might not have a problem overcoming those two absences. The Nuggets have won 12 of 13 over the Raptors (20-49) - including seven in a row - and six straight meetings at the Pepsi Center.
They recorded a 123-116 victory - Karl’s 1,000th as an NBA coach - on Dec. 10 in Toronto as Al Harrington(notes) scored a season-high 31 points and Nene added 26. Harrington hasn’t played the past two games for unspecified reasons but his 5.1-point average in his previous 12 contests might be a factor.
If he plays Monday, Harrington will face a Raptors team that’s searching for its third straight win following a 5-25 stretch. After his team earned a 116-107 win over Washington on Friday, Amir Johnson(notes) made a layup with 1.4 seconds left in Sunday’s 95-93 victory over Oklahoma City, the opener of a five-game trip.
“It was a pick-and-roll play, but (guard Leandro Barbosa(notes)) was supposed to take it all the way to the basket,” Johnson said. “They double-teamed him, he made a great pass and I was able to finish.”
“I said to these guys that we have to carry this over to tomorrow,” coach Jay Triano said. “It’s tough on a back-to-back against Denver, another team that’s playing extremely well. They’re sitting there waiting for us, so it’s a challenge. We have to play with the same energy. We have to be good, if not better.”
Bargnani tallied 24 points in the loss to Denver earlier this season as Toronto shot 51.1 percent. The Raptors, though, allowed the Nuggets to finish at 56.6 percent - their third-best performance this season.
With another win over Toronto, Denver can extend its franchise-best run of winning NBA seasons to eight.