In a pick-&-shovel city, the Raps dug themselves a huge hole in the first half. Their intrepid attempt to climb out fell agonizingly short, but they could take some satisfaction in knowing they had turned a easy Denver win into a nailbiter. Consecutive 3-balls from Kyle Lowry & Amir Johnson(!) pulled the Raps within 2 points. After Kenneth Faried split a pair of FTs, DeMar DeRozan’s game-tying attempt hit front iron at the buzzer.
Toronto went into the locker room down 17, a combination of team defence going AWOL & some bad turnovers. Giving up 61 points in an opening half can render the second half moot, but not this night. The Raps tread water in Q3; Andrea Bargnani hit two 3s, Terrence Ross contributed points & hustle, & Kyle Lowry continually pressured Denver with drives to the hoop. Our tiny, tough Point Guard drained all 11 of his FTs on the night. However, the Nuggets weren’t phased by the Raps’ scoring, & Coach Casey resorted to the rarely-seen Hack-A-Javale tactic. McGee was sent to the line by various Raps committing early fouls, but since he only once hit both shots, the Raps were able to shave 3 points off the lead which had once been 19. About halfway through Q4, a lineup including Ed Davis began to stymie the Nuggets, & the comeback was on in earnest. Ed’s game-high 9 rebounds, many of them in traffic, triggered the offence.
The Raps had 9 blocked shots, including 3 each from Jonas Valanciunas & Lowry, who frustrated Ty Lawson. However, the Nuggets won the boards battle emphatically, 53-37. The Raps were one-&-done often, collecting a sad 9 offensive rebounds. The Raps’ scoring was led by the usual suspects – Lowry had 24, AB 23 (but 2-8 from distance hurt), & DeMar 18. JV will have better nights; he was -18 with only 4 rebounds, & spent most of the second half on the bench.
The Nuggets rely on balanced scoring, & got it, with 6 players in double figures. A bench player I’d like to have, Corey Brewer, led Denver with 19. If Brewer were in Raptor red, he’d be my starting Small Forward. All 3 of Coach Casey’s SFs who broke camp (Fields, Anderson, Kleiza) were in street clothes, & Mikeal Pietrus got the start. The French stopgap managed one basket on 5 shots.
The Raptors fly to California’s capital for a Wednesday must-win (God, another one?) against the Kings.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.