The Nuggets held a big lead tonight, up in the second half for long stretches by 15 points, but the Raptors made their run. After the game Raptors coach Dwane Casey said his team dug too big of a hole to be able to complete their comeback.
After lulling the Nuggets to sleep in the fourth quarter, the Raptors used a 35-24 advantage to make a game of it late.
"[Kyle] Lowry and [Andrea] Bargnani took control of the game in a lot of ways," said George Karl. "I think it was a great win. We got to get better at finishing games. I think it was positive for us to have a close game and have to win it. We made free throws [5-6 in the last 30 seconds of the game], we made a big shot, Ty made a big shot. I thought the challenge was pretty impressive."
The Raptors are not as bad as their 4-14 record would indicate. The team now has had eight games where the difference was just 5 points for either side. However, Toronto is just 2-6 in those games as they have not been able to close out teams. Tonight the Raptors closed the lead to 10 points with 4:16 to play (103-93). They would close it all the way down to two points at 112-110 after Amir Johnson's long bomb from well behind the three-point line. Even though it was only his second three-pointer of the season, Karl said his staff believes it's a shot that he can make as they watched film on him and saw him working on his shot this summer.
But seriously, how about Kyle Lowry and Johnson connecting on a couple threes late?
"It's just our Karma I think," Karl said. "I think the three-point Gods live in Denver."
Good thing for the Nuggets? They actually came out on the positive side tonight.
The Raptors game-plan tonight was to get Andrea Bargnani going early and keep him going. He started 3-5 shooting for 6 points with Kenneth Faried on him. Bargnani is a tall man, not much of a beast, and likes to play on the perimeter. Faried chased him off a couple long balls early, but Bargnani was having his way inside and started getting his mid-range game going as well. He finished with 23 points and 4 rebounds in 40 minutes.
Denver did a good job of forcing the Raptors into taking a lot of jumpers early in the game. The problem was that Toronto started off shooting 6-10 on jumpers. After getting just 4 offensive boards in the first half, the Raptors used some big rebounds late to get back into the game and finished with 9 offensive rebounds.
The game was being played at a slow pace; that was until Denver's second unit came onto the court. JaVale McGee was the first man off the bench, followed by Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, and finally Jordan Hamilton. The second unit helped turn up the pace. Corey Brewer's first 10 points all came off fast-breaks and Brewer scored 15 points in just 9 minutes of first half action on 7-11 shooting (1-1 from deep).
"We just tried to come in and bring some energy," said Brewer. "Coach wants us to pick up the pace."
Brewer finished a beautiful alley-oop from Andre Iguodala with a hockey assist coming from Andre Miller. The ball never touched the floor on the two passes from Miller, to Iggy, and to Brewer for the oop. Corey finished the night with a team-high 19 points off the bench in just over 20 minutes of action and was a difference maker in that second unit.
"I think there is more rhythm and confidence going on with our second unit," Karl said. "My problem with the second unit is its defense. The difference between our first unit and our second unit defense is substantial. Not crazy bad, but tonight I thought they defended and got their hands [in] and pressured. JaVale [McGee] got some blocks, Corey [Brewer] got some steals, Andre [Miller] was orchestrating pretty well, and Jordan [Hamilton] came in and gave us some nice stuff."
Jordan Hamilton's early play needs to be noted; along with JaVale McGee. In just 9 minutes, Hamilton scored all of his 8 points to go along with 4 rebounds (5 total rebounds on the night) and 1 assist. His one assist coming on a crowd pleasing alley oop to McGee, who finished the play with a one-handed jam. Hamilton even displayed a nice floater, Tony Parker style, and continues to put himself in position to grab offensive and defensive boards.
McGee had 11 points in 13 minutes in the first half and was very active on both ends of the floor. McGee went to the foul line a bunch in his first stint of action and went 5-8 from the charity stripe and finished the night 9-16 from freebie land. McGee finished the night with 17 points and 6 rebounds (3 offensive). The Nuggets finished the game 27-43 or 62% and it was McGee and Kosta Koufos (2-6 and 10 points and 10 rebounds on the night before fouling out late) who skewed that stat this evening.
Toronto shot 46.3% in the first half (19-41) and finished shooting 48.8% on the night. Denver shot 52.1% (25-48) in the first half and finished the game much worse by shooting 47.1% overall. The Nuggets shot just 15-37 in the second half or 40% ... ouch!
Lawson was very aggressive tonight. He finished with 16 points on just 6-15 shooting and he missed a number of shots in the paint. For some reason, his layups are just not finding their home so far this season; hopefully that will change as the season wears on. Faried was beasting and finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds (7 offensive).
The team is set for another road trip; this one is a five game trip out East. Karl is confident in his team and thinks it will be a good trip.
"Balancing out our team, figuring out our rotations, and getting more confidence is where we are in the season," said Karl.
Tonight the Nuggets were a balanced offensive team with six players scoring in double figures, but they played an unbalanced game with two different halves.
Brewer summed the night up best, "Tonight I'm just glad we held on."
Views you can use:
-The Nuggets grabbed 23 offensive rebounds tonight. Sure, some were double-taps of their own missed shots ... still a nice stat.
-Danilo Gallinari finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds (2 offensive) and hit a couple big three pointers tonight to help kill off a couple Raptors third quarter runs. A fresh haircut too!
-Andre Iguodala finished with just 4 points tonight, but he had 8 assists. His turnovers continue to haunt him as he had 3 turnovers tonight. Dala leaves his feet a little too much when he's near the free throw line and it causes him to throw some errant passes.
-Andre Miller finished with 8 points and 6 assists in 25 minutes. It looked like Karl was set to leave him on the bench at the end of the game, but when the Raptors got close - Karl swapped McGee out for Miller ASAP.
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