Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony kept Denver's offense in high gear, but it was Kenyon Martin's defense that had coach George Karl talking.
Iverson had 36 points, Anthony added 33 and Martin shut down Toronto all-star Chris Bosh late as Denver rallied to beat the Toronto Raptors 109-100 on Sunday afternoon.
"Kenyon Martin's defense on Bosh was incredible and got better as the game went on," Karl said. "You win games with stops more than making shots. I thought Kenyon was the star of the game."
J.R. Smith scored 14 points and Marcus Camby had 15 rebounds as Denver rallied from a 17-point first-quarter deficit to win for the fifth time in seven games.
"Once we got it together on the defensive end we were able to run and not have to play the half-court offense," Iverson said. "We just wanted it more than they did at the end."
Limited to just two games last year following right knee surgery, Martin has reclaimed his role as Denver's defensive stopper this season.
"He's one of the very few guys who can play at a high level after coming back from such a serious injury," Camby said. "We're definitely happy to have him and we definitely need him, especially with Nene being out of the lineup the whole season."
Nuggets forward Nene is out for the season after surgery to remove a tumor.
Martin said he relished the chance to guard fellow Texan Bosh, who missed the only shot he took in the fourth.
"I don't give anybody a night off," Martin said. "Both of us being from Dallas, he should know that he's not going to get a night off.
While he faded in the fourth, Bosh shone through the first three quarters, finishing one assist shy of a triple-double. Bosh had 17 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, but Toronto still lost for the seventh time in eight games.
"The thing that bothers me is at the end of games we're just too hesitant," Bosh said. "We hesitate too much and we think about it too much. I know it gets harder down the stretch but we should step our game up instead of taking steps back."
Jose Calderon had 17, Andrea Bargnani had 16 and seven Raptors reached double figures, but it wasn't enough.
"We did a lot of good things but we just couldn't get over the hump," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said.
Iverson, who has averaged 30.4 points in 36 career games against Toronto, made two of Denver's six 3-pointers in the fourth, including one with 1:07 remaining that capped a 7-0 Denver run and gave the Nuggets a 103-98 edge.
"That gave us a stress-free ending," Karl said.
Denver trailed through the first three quarters before taking its first lead at 74-73 on a 3-pointer by Linas Kleiza on the first possession of the fourth.
A quick start by Bargnani helped Toronto take a 17-point lead in the opening quarter. Bargnani started 7-for-8 and had 16 points in the first as the Raptors jumped in front 35-18 before five straight points from Smith made it 35-23 after 12 minutes.
Nine points by Smith and six points each from Anthony and Iverson helped Denver close the gap to 54-46 at the half.
Karl said Smith's energy led directly to Denver's comeback.
"We don't win this game without his second quarter spurt," Karl said. "He got us running, he got us aggressive to the rim, he got the penetration game back, rather than the jump-shot game we had most of the first quarter."
Bargnani didn't score again after the first, missing his final six shot attempts.
Notes: The Nuggets went 11-for-22 from 3-point range. ... Denver has scored 100 or more points in 11 consecutive games. ... Toronto's Jamario Moon had a career-high 15 rebounds. ... The Nuggets are 2-2 with one game remaining on a five-game road trip. Denver visits Memphis on Monday. ... This was the first of four straight at home for Toronto, which hosts Detroit on Wednesday, New York on Friday and New Orleans next Sunday.
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