The Nuggets bounced back from a loss on national television with a blowout win of the Raptors, winning 133-118 at home on Sunday night.
Nikola Jokic had a triple-double, putting up 23-18-11 in 35 minutes and orchestrating a magnificent second half. Jamal Murray finished second on the team in points, with 22, with 17 of those coming in a first quarter that helped set the tone for the game.
OG Anunoby, whom the Nuggets front office really wanted in the 2017 NBA Draft, but not more than they wanted Trey Lyles, had a career night, finishing with 32 points to lead all players in scoring, seven rebounds, and seven assists. The Nuggets were able to get Pascal Siakam to have a bad game, with the All-Star going 6 for 21 with four turnovers and five personal fouls.
From the opening tip, it looked like the Raptors would have struggles against Jokic’s size, with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson starting at center. Jamal Murray scored the first five points of the game for the Nuggets, with Jokic picking up the next two baskets. The offense was clicking, with the starters functioning in rhythm and moving the ball around the court to find open shots. The Raptors switched to a zone defense, but Murray was able to capitalize on the spacing for a 3-pointer. Murray hit another 3-pointer, and the Raptors called timeout, with the Nuggets starting 5-5 from behind the arc.
Will Barton threw away another pass, his second of the game, jumping into the air without a target and making an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by OG Anunoby. Jokic was able to find a lane in transition, catch a nice pass from Jerami Grant, and throw down a one-handed dunk. After another Raptors missed shot, Murray was able to get open in the right corner and knocked down a fancy baseline fadeaway 3-pointer — someone got the message from Malone after the last game. The team called timeout after Monte Morris got knocked down on a layup, and was inadvertently kicked in the head by Pascal Siakam as the Raptors forward came in for the rebound.
Michael Porter Jr. — fresh off his stint in witness protection — checked in and immediately knocked down a 3-pointer, getting fouled by Lowry but he missed his free throw. Morris, back in the game after his little incident, joined in the 3-point game, knocking down one of his own to extend the lead to 11 points. Mason Plumlee picked up three quick fouls, unable to guard Chris Boucher without slapping down on his arms, which meant we got Vlatko Cancar minutes in the first quarter! The Nuggets were able to hit the 40 point plateau, but their offense sputtered in the final seconds, and the Raptors made a small run to make the score 40-32 after the first 12 minutes.
The Raptors started the second quarter with a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to five points, even with the Nuggets having started 9-11 on their 3-point attempts. Jokic, in for Plumlee with foul trouble, made an unbelievable pass to Barton, a pass that I’ve never seen completed. Jokic had three possessions in a row where he registered an assist, an unbelievable stretch of basketball. Nick Nurse called a timeout, and the Raptors were able to put together a 9-2 run as the Nuggets committed unforced turnovers courtesy of OG Anunoby. The Raptors continued to play with high intensity on defense, stifling the Nuggets offense and cutting the lead to three points. With both teams deploying their starters, the energy of the game really ramped up, with both teams flying around the court making plays. Gary Harris hit a 3-pointer, his second of the game, and Jerami Grant had a huge dunk, but was whistled for a technical foul for taunting afterwards.
Jerami Grant flexed on him after this poster pic.twitter.com/cgnkvWpolx— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 2, 2020
The referees missed a couple calls, and Jokic had another play where he totally gave up on a screen. He’s been doing this thing lately where if he gets screened by a guard, he immediately gives up on the play, letting the guy he’s supposed to be defending drive uncontested to the rim. Hollis-Jefferson had two of those plays in the first half, and they’re plays that are just so disheartening to see from a guy that is supposed to be the team leader. Anunoby had his SIXTH steal of the game in the final seconds, stripping the ball from Murray and finishing with a reverse dunk, his 20th point of the game, to lead all Raptors players in scoring.
The Nuggets had a pretty impressive offensive first half, with 26 assists on 27 made field goals for 73 points. They knocked down 14 of 21 3-point attempts, with Jamal Murray going 5-6. They did have 10 turnovers in the half, and they gave up 69 points, so despite their offensive firepower, they entered the locker room at the half only up by four points.
Jokic and Murray teamed up to get some points to start the third quarter, working the pick and roll to manufacture some buckets. They continued to struggle to defend in transition, giving up a bucket after a made jumper by Jokic that they had no busy allowing, and Malone called timeout MAD about that mistake. Both teams used their replay challenge, with the Nuggets challenging a foul call on Harris and the Raptors challenging a foul call on Siakam, but both plays were upheld following a review. The refs blew a call against the Nuggets, calling offensive goaltending on Jerami Grant as he was dunking the ball, and then followed up that gem by calling Grant for a foul after he cleanly blocked Siakam on a post-up.
The refs continued to make a mess of things, missing calls and being inconsistent with contact. Murray turned on his jets, getting angry on the court and making plays on both ends of the court. He was able to win a jump ball against Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, then driving to the rim and getting to the free throw line. He hit a deep 3-pointer, but the Nuggets gave up another basket in transition, with Anunoby sneaking behind MPJ for an alley-oop dunk.
The amount of times the Nuggets have given up layups after their own made baskets today is staggering.— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) March 2, 2020
Raptors transition dunk DRINK— Dan (@minutemandan) March 2, 2020
Anunoby and Craig traded 3-pointers, but the Nuggets just could not play any sort of respectable transition defense, giving up another couple baskets, allowing the Raptors to get really easy points. The Nuggets finished the third up by four, 100-96, but it should have been a bigger lead if not for their horrendous defense.
MPJ started the fourth with points on the first two possessions, powering a 5-0 run right out of the gate. They did give up two more transition dunks, cancelling out those points from Porter, and letting the Raptors get right back into the game. Both teams struggled to score for a spell, but Monte Morris was able to take a page from the Raptors playbook and get a basket in transition on his own, pumping the lead to 11. Siakam and Anunoby forced a turnover on an inbounds pass, leading to a Siakam dunk, then MPJ crashed the offensive glass instead of getting back on defense and Lowry had a transition layup, leading to yet another timeout after a blown transition defensive sequence.
The Nuggets were able to get Jokic on Patrick McCaw (that’s two points every time), then forced a miss by Lowry, and Gary Harris was able to get a bucket in transition off a Jokic touchdown pass off a rebound.
The Nuggets were able to get some points by battling their way to the free throw line, but the Raptors wouldn’t relent from their plan of attack of getting to the rim. The dagger came after a halfcourt defensive stop, with Murray diving for a steal, as Jokic posted up and found Grant for a dunk on a cut after the defense sent a double team. Gary Harris hit a 3-pointer, and then got another basket off a pass by Jokic after another Lowry miss. Both teams emptied their benches, and it was curtains for the visiting team.
Three things I noticed
That poo-poo transition defense. Holy crap the transition defense was bad. Malone called timeout several times tonight because of mistakes that just can’t happen against a team like the Raptors. It was very San Antonio Spurs-like of them, because they were running every single chance they could. The Nuggets halfcourt defense was fine, but they gave up so many dunks and layups because they couldn’t prevent the Raptors guards from getting to the rim in transition.
Jokic and Murray were unstoppable. The Nuggets two franchise players were fantastic tonight. Murray was on fire in the first quarter, and while he couldn’t quite find that same level later in the game on offense, he had a great intensity level in the second half to help spark the team. He played great. Jokic was incredible, taking advantage of no Marc Gasol and no Serge Ibaka to just bully the Raptors defense. He was outstanding.
What a fun game. This was a back and forth game, full of exciting jumpers, big dunks, egregious calls by the refs, and a Nuggets win. What a great way to end the week.
No, even though some of you may be wishing for it, I’m not stepping away from the blog again. But I will be taking a few weeks off for the birth of my first child. I’m excited to join the club and welcome my son to the world. I’m definitely not naming him Tyler Lydon Lewis, but I will say that I considered it. Good luck this week Nuggets and Stiffs family!