Denver’s performance in Summer League has been a bit of a disappointment even though this is the very first time these young players have played in the NBA, and with each other. However, the Nuggets performed a little better tonight despite losing (yet again).

The Nuggets opened by losing the lead quickly just as they did in games 1 & 2 against Houston and Minnesota. Henry Sims worked to get to the rim with a few early points and rebounds, but Juancho Hernangomez, and Tyler Lydon took poorly calculated shots from three that didn’t fall. Denver’s first round draft pick hasn’t been performing as advertised, but his footwork on defense shows a little promise.

Denver’s ball movement was markedly better in game three creating a couple of nice open three-point shots toward the end of the first. The Nuggets were able to work their way to the rim while drawing fouls allowing them to catch up quickly. They ended the first quarter down by just 2 points 20-18.

Toronto opened the second quarter scoring a quick two points, and did work on defense with a blocked shot by Jakob Poeltl at the rim. The Nuggets held the Raptors to just two points in the first several minutes of the quarter, but they lost their footing on defense while Toronto maintained the lead. Toronto’s Fred VanVleet quickly made his way to double digits followed closely by Pascal Siakam. Second year Poeltl landed 8 rebounds in the first half contributing to a team total of 25.

Torrey Craig impressed for Denver in the first half following in Sims’ footsteps by working his way to the rim and drawing fouls. Juancho and Beasley struggled to get shots off bringing in only a couple of points each after 2 quarters causing the Nuggets to enter halftime with a 9 point deficit.

Opening the second half, Juancho fought to keep the ball under the rim with little help from his teammates. Monte Morris came to his rescue with the easy lay in, followed by Beasley with a quick field goal capitalizing on a Raptors’ turnover. However, the Raptors stayed ahead of the Nuggets working up to a 10 point lead. After a fairly strong first half, Denver focused too heavily on drawing fouls and struggled to finish at the rim.

Beasley decided he had had enough struggling and turned up the heat adding 10 points for the Nuggets in the 3rd quarter. Poeltl took multiple failed perimeter shots for Toronto while Nikola Radicevic added three points with the and-one play allowing the Nuggets to take the lead 65-63 by the end of the quarter.

The Raptors opened the 4th by scoring fast points regaining the lead 70-65 within the first few minutes. Sims put in work on defense under the rim, but the Nuggets were unable to keep the lead. Denver worked to stay close, and Juancho found an open shot to put the Nuggets back up by one with under 2 minutes to go. However, Poeltl delivered the fatal blow to the Nuggets on the boards giving the Raptors the opportunity to capture the lead once again.

The Raptors went up by 3 with under 20 seconds left in the game, but the Nuggets forced a turnover taking a quick time out to attempt to capture the win. Denver was able to get in a final two points, and a steal with 1.2 seconds left on the clock, but it wasn’t enough. They lost by 1 filthy point, 82-81 falling to 0-3 at NBA Summer League.

Final thoughts:

The Nuggets are showing signs of improvement after a few games together, although they still seem to fall behind most of the other teams in the league. The rust is wearing off, and they are moving the ball better and getting (a little) more serious on defense. Beasley is showing great signs of leadership albeit a rusty first half tonight, and I’m hopeful for his ability to help Denver this coming season.

Torrey Craig looked great in game 3 with 15 points and 3 rebounds putting him just behind Beasley for top scorer of the game. He’s showing to be more interesting than the Nuggets draft picks, and I’m interested to see how he performs moving forward.

Tyler Lydon continues to disappoint, but Henry Sims is someone I’m really starting to like. I love a player who fights to get to the rim and isn’t afraid to get physical. Sims contributed 12 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes making him the third highest scorer for the game.