Nuggets try to stay hot against flailing Raptors

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The Toronto Raptors will try to stop a nine-game losing streak when they play the visiting Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night in Tampa.

The Nuggets have won nine of their past 11 games after defeating the host Orlando Magic 110-99 on Tuesday night to open a three-game road trip.

Nikola Jokic had his 12th triple-double of the season for the Nuggets with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. Jamal Murray added 21 points for the Nuggets, who will be trying for a franchise-record seventh straight road victory on Wednesday.

The Nuggets had a 24-point, third-quarter lead evaporate to five early in the fourth quarter against the Magic.

“We lost the focus, we lost the way, how we play,” Jokic said. “We were not aggressive at all.”

That came after holding a 22-point lead at halftime.

“It’s funny, at halftime, I was telling our coaches how we played a great first half … and I was nervous as hell,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

His fears were justified when the Magic cut the lead to five points.

“When teams make a run, they make it interesting, you know you have a player in Nikola Jokic that you can play through,” Malone said.

The Raptors have the longest current losing streak in the NBA after falling 117-99 to the host Houston Rockets on Monday. The Rockets had lost their previous 20.

“It ain’t no secret, we’ve got to play defense and we’ve got to play better,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said after the game Monday. “It’s literally no secret to it, like I swear. I wish I could give you guys some other magical answer, but it’s literally no Groundhog Day. Every game’s different and we’re just not playing hard enough and we’re not playing well enough.”

OG Anunoby was given a rest and did not play Monday. He is expected to return Wednesday.

Toronto had not lost nine straight games since they dropped 13 in a row Jan. 12-Feb. 2, 2011.

“I don’t know any different than to go to work when you’re trying to dig yourself out of a hole,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “So, we’ll continue to do that and squeeze practices in when we can and any other walk-throughs, any drill work we can do to try to get our chemistry back and get our connectivity back because, with this team, they’ve shown they can do it.”

Opponents are averaging 119.8 points and shooting 49.0 from the field over the past nine games. The Raptors also have been outrebounded 455-339 during the streak, an average deficit of 12.9 rebounds per game.

“For whatever reason, the defense is not what it needs to be,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “We just have to keep staying together, stay locked in and understand there’s a lot of basketball in front of us, but there definitely needs to be a big change or improvement to our defensive focus and intensity and attention to detail.”

The Raptors denied on Tuesday a report by The Athletic that said Pascal Siakam had been fined $50,000 for “directing several heated choice words” toward Nurse after the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. The team did not deny that an exchange took place and indicated that they are still investigating.

–Field Level Media