There shouldn't be any such thing as "good losses" in professional sports, but tonight's 109-108 loss at Toronto comes as close as it gets to a "good loss." Undermanned from the opening tip due to an assortment of ailments that befell Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler, the Nuggets nevertheless mustered a great effort against a Raptors squad that had most of its roster in-tact, including the oft-injured Andrea Bargnani.
My gut feel tells me that tonight's game will pay dividends down the road. Seeing young reserves like Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton and Anthony Randolph get substantial playing time can only mean positive results if - god forbid - those three are thrown into action later in the season or during the post-season. All three played hard and Randolph in particular seemed to make the most of the opportunity, delivering 16 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in the game.
Injuries or not, the Nuggets actually played pretty well. The Nuggets got major league performances from point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, and Kenneth Faried continued his fine play at power forward with 15 points (on 8 attempts) and 11 rebounds. But with Gallo, Iguodala, Chandler and then JaVale McGee (who hurt his leg in the first half) all out, the Nuggets were dependent on their youngsters.
And alas, with youth comes turnovers and missed free throws, and the Nuggets turned the ball over 18 times while missing six free throws. So no matter how hard they fought, they put themselves in a position to lose and that's exactly what happened when new Raptor Rudy Gay delivered the game-winning shot with 4.8 seconds remaining. Gay followed that up by playing solid defense on Lawson who was tasked with taking a difficult end-of-game shot.
But unlike Sunday night, when I finished watching the heartbreaking Celtics loss by screaming at Miller through my television screen, I didn't finish watching tonight's game being upset. Instead, it was inspiring to see the young Nuggets play hard and nearly deliver a tough road win despite the injury bug that suddenly hit the team all at once.
Non-Stiff(s) of the Game
-DeMar DeRozan and John Lucas: DeRozan killed the Nuggets from the field while Lucas came off the bench and exploited one of the Nuggets biggest weaknesses - defending the three-point shot. In just 14 minutes of play, Lucas canned four three-pointers (on six attempts) and finished with 14 points.
Stiff of the Game
-Corey Brewer: 3-11 shooting. 1-7 from three-point territory. Three turnovers. Poor Brewer tried to have a positive impact on the game, but instead had the opposite effect.
Don't be dismayed Nuggets fans. This team is showing plenty of grit these past two games.