Nuggets have appetite for success as six-game trip begins

Denver takes five-game winning streak into stretch against struggling Eastern teams
by Aaron Lopez

After finding their footing, the Denver Nuggets are starting to take flight – and flights will be the norm over the next nine days.

The Nuggets, who have rebounded nicely from an 0-3 start to the season, will open a season-long six-game road trip Sunday when they face the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

Riding a five-game winning streak, Denver’s players boarded the plane Saturday with an appetite to extend their run of success.

“We’re hungry,” Nuggets guard Nate Robinson said. “Every team looks like Thanksgiving dinner. We’re trying to get it.”

Based on early returns, there is certainly an opportunity for Denver to enjoy success away from Pepsi Center. Toronto (6-9), Brooklyn (4-12), Cleveland (4-12), Boston (7-11), Philadelphia (6-11) and Washington (7-9) have a combined 34-64 record.

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw doesn’t want his team lulled into a false sense of security based on the opposition.

“If we don’t bring the right mindset to play the game the right way, we won’t give ourselves the chance (to win),” he said. “What I want them to feel is what it feels like to string some games together, get some momentum. We want it to continue regardless of whether we’re on the road or not. All these teams that we play, we have to respect them. We’ve had some good fortune, so we can’t afford to overlook anyone.”

During their current win streak, the Nuggets have won twice on the road, beating the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves. They shot better than .500 in both games, shared the ball and limited their turnovers.

That will be a recipe for success again during the upcoming Eastern swing.

“We’ve got five wins in a row. We’re trying to keep it going,” point guard Ty Lawson said. “If we stay focused and stay with the game plan, we can make this win streak a lot longer … You can’t be like, ‘I want to win four out of six.’ That doesn’t make sense. We want all six.”

If Lawson continues his All-Star-caliber play, nothing is out of reach for Denver.

The fifth-year pro is one of only two players averaging more than 20 points and eight assists per game (Stephen Curry of Golden State is the other).

“I think he’s known for having a little bit of a slow start working his way into the season, but he’s come out and been aggressive,” Denver point guard Andre Miller said of his young teammate. “He’s doing a good job playing within what the coaches want him to do.”

That also could describe the Nuggets as a whole right now.

Big men Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson are controlling the glass with their rebounding ability; Randy Foye is finding his touch from 3-point range; Miller is giving Shaw leadership off the bench; Wilson Chandler is providing defense and scoring; Robinson and Jordan Hamilton are bringing instant offense off the bench; and Darrell Arthur, Timofey Mozgov and Evan Fournier have enjoyed success when called upon.

“I think we found our niche,” Robinson said. “Guys are falling into their role and are playing pretty well.”


WHEN: 11 a.m. MT
WHERE: Air Canada Center, Toronto
TV; RADIO: Altitude; AM-950

DENVER (9-6)

F Wilson Chandler
F Kenneth Faried
C J.J. Hickson
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

F Rudy Gay
F Amir Johnson
C Jonas Valanciunus
G DeMar DeRozan
G Kyle Lowry

Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (fractured left tibia) are out.
TORONTO: None to report.

The Nuggets have won six of the last nine against the Raptors in Toronto and 15 of 18 overall over the past nine seasons. Denver's average margin of victory of 13.8 points in those 15 wins . . . The Nuggets have claimed six season series sweeps (2-0) over the Raptors in the last nine years . . . One of the two losses for Denver against Toronto in these past nine years happened to be the worst loss in team history at the hands of the Raptors – 27 points (121-94) at Toronto on 3/23/07.