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22-23

Raptors-Nuggets Preview

AP - Sports

The Denver Nuggets couldn't keep up without their leading scorer last time out.

The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, haven't missed a beat without theirs.

Ty Lawson and DeMar DeRozan are questionable to play Friday night when the Nuggets go for a 10th consecutive home win over the Raptors.

Denver (22-22) had posted back-to-back wins before falling 101-98 to Charlotte on Wednesday. The Nuggets were held to under 101 points for the first time in 14 games and shot just 39.0 percent with Lawson sidelined due to a left shoulder injury.

Leading the team with 17.9 points, 8.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, Lawson is day to day.

"The one position that we cannot afford to have an injury or to have that player missing is Ty Lawson," coach Brian Shaw said. "His speed, along with being a pure point guard that can run the perimeter and direct everybody where to go and keep the defense on their toes, so we lose a lot of speed, we lose that playmaking ability. We tried to mix and match and make up for it in other ways but it definitely shows his value when he's not in there."

The Nuggets also lost Lawson's backup - Nate Robinson - to a sprained knee in the first quarter, leaving Randy Foye to play the point. He finished with a season-high 33 points and matched a season best with seven assists.

"It was hard playing without Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson because they push the ball so well and they do so many different things on the court," Foye said. "I just tried to mimic what those guys do on the court, just being really aggressive by attacking the defense.

"We will figure it out there is no quitting on this team."

The Raptors (24-21) enter the weekend having won four of five, including back-to-back victories without DeRozan. The fifth-year guard, averaging a career-best 21.8 points, is dealing with a foot injury but will travel with the team on its five-game road trip.

"We can't really have him out too long," said Greivis Vasquez, who started in place of DeRozan during Wednesday's 98-83 win over Orlando. "We need him."

Kyle Lowry has carried the load during DeRozan's absence, scoring 64 points while shooting 55.3 percent over the last two games. He added 11 assists and shot 6 of 11 from 3-point range against the Magic.

"His aggressive play means a lot," coach Dwane Casey said. "His veteran leadership out there on the court, you can't say enough."

Lowry, averaging career highs of 16.8 points and 7.6 assists, is hoping to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

"I keep my fingers crossed that the coaches voted him in because he deserves it," Casey said. "Right now he's one of the best point guards in the league."

Lowry was held in check during a 112-98 loss to Denver on Dec. 1, posting 17 points, but also shooting 5 of 15 while committing five turnovers. The Raptors have dropped 16 of 19 in this series since 2004-05, including nine straight road meetings by an average of 17.8 points while giving up 118.6 per game in that span.

Jonas Valanciunas, who had 18 points and 11 boards against the Nuggets last month, has shot 58.8 percent and averaged 17.0 and 13.3 while putting together a season-best three consecutive double-doubles. Toronto has won 12 of its last 14 when Valanciunas scores at least 12.

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