The Toronto Raptors played 40 minutes of excellent basketball against an injury-ravaged Denver Nuggets team. The hefty margin the visitors built up, which ballooned to 25 early in Q4, was needed. Toronto was offensively gassed (or short of breath? – this is the Mile High City after all), and scored one point in the game’s final 7:44. Stout defense kept Denver at bay, and the Raptors were able to grab their first win in Colorado since the ’02-’03 season.
The Raptors got contributions from all hands, save Greivis Vasquez. Terrence Ross could only manage one bucket in the second half, but scored 16 points before intermission. He posterized Kenneth Faried with an in-your-face dunk which made his teammates go bananas on the bench, and should be on Highlight Of The Night shows around the planet. TRoss enhanced his growing defensive reputation with 3 blocked shots and 2 steals. DeMar DeRozan, making a welcome return from a twisted ankle, led all scorers with 19. Kyle Lowry has shot better, but 13 points helped, as did John Salmons’ 11, which included three 3s. Tyler Hansbrough is still working out the kinks following his lengthy ankle injury, but 9 points and 5 boards in 12+ minutes was most encouraging. Patrick Patterson, wearing a clear plastic mask to protect his broken nose, chipped in 9 points and 6 boards. Vasquez was the only outlier; donut for 6 shooting and 3 measly assists in 19+ minutes.
The Raps were helped greatly but unwillingly by Denver’s 25 turnovers. Several Nuggets were playing out of position, or with unfamiliar mates, due to the team’s injury woes. Many passes were delivered to spots unoccupied by Denver players. J.J. Hickson had a fine game, scoring 18 and grabbing 13 rebounds. Randy Foye, playing point guard in place of Ty Lawson, piled up 16 assists. Timofey Mozgov was a shadow of the beast he had been in Toronto, ending with a minus-23.
The Raptors’ offensive swoon at game’s end was troubling. Let’s hope it doesn’t continue tonight, as they visit Portland to tangle with the powerhouse Trail Blazers.