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Nuggets-Raptors Preview

Mar 26, 2010 - 1:38 AM By JEFF MEZYDLO STATS Senior Writer

Denver (47-25) at Toronto (35-35), 7:00 p.m. EDT

The Toronto Raptors might need to improve their play at home if they want to remain in playoff position. The suddenly struggling Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, are looking to play better on the road.

Trying to avoid a third consecutive home loss, the Raptors look to extend the Nuggets' losing streak to a season-high four games Friday night.

Toronto (35-35) is 23-12 at Air Canada Centre, but has suffered back-to-back blowout losses there - 115-89 to Oklahoma City last Friday and 113-87 against Utah on Wednesday.

The Raptors, losers of six of nine at home, haven't dropped three straight there this season.

Though the Raptors hold the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, they're 1 1/2 games out of sixth place. That might be the inspiration needed to play better at home.

"I don't think we have that fire right now," said All-Star Chris Bosh, who celebrated his 26th birthday with 20 points and eight rebounds against the Jazz.

"I can't instill it in guys. You have to have it on your own. As much as I would like to do everything, I can't do everything. Whatever gets guys going, we have to find it."

The Raptors had better find it with Denver coming to town. Though the playoff-bound Nuggets (47-25) have dropped three in a row, they've won five straight over Toronto. Denver has averaged 124.4 points and shot 55.1 percent during the winning streak. The Nuggets also shot a season-high 61.5 percent in a 130-112 home win over the Raptors on Nov. 17.

Bosh had 13 points and 14 rebounds in that contest. He's averaging a career-high 24.0 points this season, but 14.2 in six career home games versus Denver.

Utah shot 49.4 percent against the Raptors, who have allowed 110.0 points per game while losing 11 of 15. Opponents are shooting 48.1 percent against Toronto during that span.

"You have to have a short memory in games," guard Jarrett Jack told the Raptors' official Web site.

Denver hopes that's the case after falling to 0-2 on a five-game road trip with a 113-99 loss to Boston on Wednesday. The Nuggets are 17-19 away from the Pepsi Center, where they are 30-6 this season.

Carmelo Anthony had 32 points and J.R. Smith added 21 for the Nuggets, who are averaging 107.4 points this season but 98.0 in their last five games.

Denver, tied with Utah for the Northwest Division lead, dropped to 5-4 under assistant Adrian Dantley as he continues to guide the team while coach George Karl undergoes treatment for throat and neck cancer. Karl might not return to the sidelines until the beginning of the playoffs next month.

The Nuggets also are playing without forward Kenyon Martin, who will miss his 12th straight game with a knee injury. Boston took advantage of Martin's absence, scoring 58 points in the paint Wednesday.

"It's tough playing without your head coach and the guy (Martin) that has the biggest presence and the biggest voice on the team," guard Chauncey Billups said. "There is nobody stressing on it. We just have to man up and get ourselves through it."

Anthony is averaging 37.7 points in his last three road games, and 27.0 in his last four against Toronto.