Game No. 51: Raptors 105, Nuggets 96

The Raptors followed up their home stinker against the Magic on Monday with a much more competitive game against the Nuggets on Wednesday. What the injury-riddled Raps lacked in the talent and man power departments, they more than made up for with a commendable effort against Denver, resulting in the Raptors’ first victory over the Nuggets in five full years.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- For a while, this didn’t look like the type of game the Raptors could come away with. In fact, it looked like the prototypical “Tank Nation” game. The Raps were playing pretty well, were playing hard, were taking care of the ball and were hitting a barrage of threes in the first half. The Nuggets, on the other hand, didn’t look sharp at all and missed nine straight shots at one point in the first quarter. And yet through all of that, Toronto was never able to open up a big lead, holding on to just a two point advantage at the half. It just seemed like the Nuggets were one big run away from taking control and running with it. But credit the Raptors for hanging tough, bending without breaking, and ultimately using a 17-2 run, which included the Nuggets misfiring on 12 straight possessions, to win their 17th game of the season and snap a nine-game losing streak against Denver.

2- Andrea Bargnani had by far his best game since his return to the lineup, putting up 26 points on 50 per cent shooting while getting to the line 12 times in 36 minutes. Bargnani brought it from start to finish in this one, attacking the basket from his first touch of the game and staying aggressive throughout. What was encouraging to see was the return of his quickness and burst off of his first step, which was noticeably missing over the last couple of weeks. For his effort, Bargs was rewarded with a minor milestone, as the 26-year-old eclipsed the 6000 career points mark in the second quarter. We’d all like to see more rebounds fall into Andrea’s hands, but you can’t say a lack of effort was the reason he only grabbed five tonight.

3- Nowhere was the Raptors’ workmanlike effort more noticeable than in the rebounding department, as the Raps out-rebounded the Nuggets 49-43. On the surface, a rebounding advantage of six doesn’t seem like much to write home about, but it’s impressive when you consider that the Nuggets sit third in the NBA in rebounding differential, and when you consider that the Raptors were actually out-rebounded 14-5 in the first quarter. Whatever was said in the huddle between the first and second quarters obviously worked, because the Raptors definitely had a fire under them while crashing the boards in quarters two to four.

4- So I tell you the Raptors dominated the boards down the stretch and grabbed 49 total rebounds, and you’d probably assume Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Aaron Gray did most of the dirty work. Nope, six-foot-seven Gary Forbes led the rebounding charge for the Raptors, cleaning the glass to finish with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds against his former team, which must have felt great for Gary (You see him stare down the Nuggets bench after his fourth quarter three-ball?), especially since the solid performance came in a win. It was Forbes’ second double-double in the last three games, as Gary is proving he is more than just a bench scorer, grabbing 31 rebounds combined over his last four contests. We’ve already seen flashes of Forbes’ passing ability in spurts this season and we know he can score, so if he can become a consistent rebounder off of the bench too, the Raptors will have a very solid and very cheap option to call upon off the pine for the next couple of seasons.

5- It’s not ideal in terms of the core development, but the Raptors’ two 10-day guys played a part in this W. Alan Anderson and Ben Uzoh combined for 12 points on four-of-nine shooting to go along with two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 26 minutes between the two of them. That’s obviously a small contribution, but it’s a lot more than most teams receive from a couple of 10-day players down the stretch of a lost season. I was surprised to see them get 13 minutes of burn a piece, but they both deserved it, and could continue to see consistent minutes if the Raptors don’t get healthy any time soon.

6- By eclipsing the 100-point mark, the Raptors gave the 15,867 in attendance a free slice of Pizza Pizza pizza to cheer about. If you’re a frequenter of RaptorBlog, you know all about our stance on the silly gimmick. But at least on Wednesday night, the promotion had a fun, lovable vibe to it, as fans roared for pizza while also cheering as the home team pulled away for a rare home victory. Since I never really contributed my two cents on the matter, I’ll point out that I don’t have a problem with teams adding the potential for an extra benefit for their paying fans in attendance, even if it’s something as cheap as a slice of pizza. It’s just that I think there should be a much simpler formula: If the Raptors win, fans get pizza, regardless of the amount of points scored. If the home team loses, we all lose, again, regardless of the point total. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned to Scott, this seems like one of those suggestions that makes too much sense to ever really be considered.


You didn’t honestly think I would get through this post without showing you this did you? “Little man, don’t take a charge in there!”

As usual though, someone else had the last laugh when facing JaVale McGee.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 36 Min, 26 Pts, 7-14 FG, 2-4 3PT, 10-12 FT, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Nuggets Player of the Game: Ty Lawson – 39 Min, 26 Pts, 9-19 FG, 2-7 3PT, 6-6 FT, 4 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO