Raptors Tipoff

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Andrea Bargnani vs. Nene

An international flavour pitting two highly skilled bigs. Nene ran amok when the Raptors got blown out in the Mile High City back in November but his running mate, Kenyon Martin, is injured and the Nuggets are not as imposing in the paint. Bargnani does his damage on the perimeter. He simply has to make shots, force the Nuggets to spread the floor and allow Chris Bosh room to operate. Bargnani's size advantage over Nene will help, but he's going to have to put a body on the Brazilian and match Nene's physical presence.

SCOUTING REPORT

The Nuggets are going through a difficult stretch, and are beginning to show how much they miss head coach George Karl, who is battling throat and neck cancer. Denver isn't in any danger of missing the playoffs, but there's concern. "Right now, we're just playing soft, I guess, just soft basketball," superstar Carmelo Anthony told reporters following the team's third straight setback, a 113-99 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. "We're not known for being like that." Added Chauncey Billups: "It's tough playing without your head coach and the guy (Martin) who has the biggest presence and the biggest voice on the team."

DID YOU KNOW

Martin (left knee tendinitis) has missed the team's last 11 games ... Denver is 5-4 without Karl, who isn't likely to return until mid-April ... The Nuggets are among the league leaders in scoring, averaging close to 108 points, but they haven't reached the century mark in four of their last five games ... Denver's magic number to clinch a post-season berth is three ... In Boston, the Nuggets allowed a Raptor-like 58 points in the paint.


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