If I had an intern and an intricate stats database, I could tell you what the win-loss record is for teams who play in Denver when they played another game the day before. Sadly, I don’t have those resources at my disposal so I’m just going to have to assume that there is a distinct disadvantage to playing in Denver’s rarified altitude on the second of back-to-back games. That would help explain the total domination of the Nuggets over the Raptors on Monday night.
The Nuggets made it look easy, like they were a pro team playing a college squad. The Raptors looked tired, unmotivated and demoralized — and considering how this season has gone, can you blame them? Denver dominated in every meaningful statistical category: rebounds, points in the paint, free throw attempts, field goal percentage, fast break points… I could go on, but you get the point.
I found my mind wandering as this game got out of hand early on. I ended up fixating on the Nuggets’ General Manager, Masai Ujiri. While Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment waffles about whether they should extend Bryan Colangelo, Ujiri currently looks like a rock star in Denver due to his patience and savvy with the Carmelo Anthony dilemma. The contrast between how Ujiri handled the Carmelo standoff with how Colangelo managed the Chris Bosh situation is striking, and it’s worth bringing up because Ujiri was an assistant GM to Colangelo before the Nuggets poached him last year.
Thanks to the brilliantly inspired trade Ujiri made with the Knicks, the Nuggets have emerged from the Carmelo trade with loads of young prospects and draft picks while they’re already arguably a top-10 NBA team. They showcased their talent Monday night and I expect Ujiri will find a way to re-sign Nene this off-season as one of the keys to their future plans. He doesn’t get a lot of hype but Nene is a lot better than anyone on the Raptors’ roster and he made that abundantly clear in his 24 minutes of play.
There are 12 games left in the Raptors’ season before we can start enjoying playoff basketball without burdening ourselves with the angst of watching games like this. Hold on tightly to that thought like the life of your NBA fandom depends on it
Raptors player of the game: N/A
Nuggets player of the game: Ty Lawson — 23 Pts, 7-10 FG 2-3 3Pt, 7-7 FT, 4 Reb, 8 Ast
Goat of the game: Leandro Barbosa — 17 Min, 5 Pts, 2-11 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 1 Reb, Minus-28