Nuggets Drill Raptors


Aware that Toronto had played a tough game a night earlier in Phoenix, the Denver Nuggets ran from the opening tip.

Nick Van Exel had 19 points and six assists, and Ron Mercer scored 15 points as the Nuggets stretched a winning streak to three for the first time in nearly three years, beating the Raptors 109-84 Wednesday night.

"That was like the good old days and we had to get up and down the floor," Nuggets coach Dan Issel said. "We had to push the basketball every time, but especially on a team that has been on a western swing and playing the night before."

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  • Raef LaFrentz added 13 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for the Nuggets, who last won three straight from Dec. 18-23, 1996. Denver scored only 15 points off fastbreak chances, but outrebounded Toronto 53-44, including 18 offensive rebounds.

    "That helped us because we really didn't shoot that well," Issel said. "We were only shooting 35 percent at the half, but because of the offensive rebounds, we got a lot more opportunities than they did."

    Vince Carter was held to 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting. The Raptors committed a season-high 24 turnovers in losing for the second time in as many nights.

    "We had a little moss on the stone," Toronto coach Butch Carter said. "We turned the ball over 24 times and for the first time in 12 games at times looked like the keystone cops."

    Denver took a 79-63 lead into the fourth quarter opened an 89-67 lead when George McCloud made the second of two 3-pointers in the quarter with 10:21 left. Toronto never got closer than 96-77 after Alvin Williams>' jumper with 5:04 left.

    Trailing 53-46 at halftime, Carter made his first shot of the second half, but LaFrentz's tip started an 18-5 run completed by a turnaround jumper by Antonio McDyess with 5:41 left in the quarter.

    Carter made two jumpers, and Curry's layup on the break cut the lead to 75-63. Denver got its lead up to 16 points on baskets by Chauncey Billups and Keon Clark.

    Curry made three 3-pointers and had nine points to keep the Raptors close in the second quarter.

    Tracy McGrady's layup gave them a 46-45 lead, but Toronto missed its next five shots and turned the ball over twice in the remaining 3:25 of the half, while James Posey keyed an 8-0 run with four points to build a seven-point lead.

    Van Exel made his first three shots, all 3-pointers, to start the game and scored 12 points in the first quarter. McCloud's three-point play in the last minute gave Denver a 27-26 lead.

    "They had a heartbreaker last night, and we knew we had to jump on them and not get them a chance," Van Exel said. "They were just in Phoenix who does the same thing that we do and knew we could wear them down."

    Notes

  • Denver activated guard Chauncey Billups and placed guard Chris Herren on the injured list.
  • Ryan Bowen sat out the game for the Nuggets because of an irregular heartbeat, but was cleared to return to practice.
  • Toronto's bench outscored it counterparts for the ninth time in 12 games.
  • Toronto last lost in Denver on Jan. 27, 1996.
  • Dell Curry, the NBA's top 3-pointer shooter, was 3-for-5 from long range in the game.
  • Denver had seven players reach double figures, the most this season.

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