Published January 27, 2012
DENVER – Rudy Fernandez scored a season-high 23 in his return from a sore Achilles as the Denver Nuggets beat the short-handed Toronto Raptors 96-81 on Friday night.
Danilo Gallinari added 21 points and Nene had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets in their sixth straight win. They capitalized on a Toronto lineup that was missing leading scorer Andrea Bargnani, out indefinitely after aggravating a strained left calf this week.
The Raptors took a while to adjust to his absence, and by the time they did, it was too late as they fell to 0-7 in games Bargnani has been sidelined.
They missed 14 of their first 15 shots, fell behind 16-2, scored just a dozen points in the first quarter and trudged off the court at halftime trailing 54-32.
Toronto was still down 14 before making a run in the fourth quarter, getting within six before the Nuggets buckled down on defense to put this one away.
Fernandez, the first Denver player off the bench, made his first five shots, including three from behind the arc in his first action since missing two games, wins at New York and Sacramento.
Andre Miller added 13 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for Denver. He swished a 60-foot running jump shot at the buzzer to cap an impressive first quarter in which the Nuggets outscored Toronto 28-12 and held the Raptors to 24 percent shooting.
Leandro Barbosa led Toronto with 19 points, and his 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter trimmed Denver's lead to 80-74, forcing coach George Karl, who drew a third-quarter technical, to call a timeout.
The Nuggets staunched the bleeding with back-to-back buckets from Gallinari and Fernandez to make it 85-74.
Jerryd Bayless added 18 points and James Johnson 16 for Toronto.
Former Denver swingman Linas Kleiza started in place of Bargnani, but he was held scoreless for three quarters in his first game at the Pepsi Center since leaving the Nuggets two years ago to play in Greece.
Kleiza, who finished with 2 points on 1-for-7 shooting, and Al Harrington got into a short skirmish in the final minute after jawing at each other. Both drew technical fouls, as did Nene.
The Raptors have lost every game in which Bargnani, who averages 23.5 points, has been sidelined. He scored 36 points in a win over Phoenix on Tuesday night in his return from the six-game absence and had 25 points Wednesday night at Utah when he reinjured himself in overtime as he battled for a rebound.
Bargnani said this time it's more serious, leading to speculation he could miss a significant amount of games.
Notes: Arron Afflalo also returned to the Nuggets lineup after missing those two games, but he missed all three of his shots and was shut out. ... Fernandez's career high is 26 points for Portland at Minnesota on Dec. 17, 2010. ... Karl was whistled for his second technical of the season with 46 seconds left in the third quarter.