Turnovers and rebounding issues left the Raptors in a serious hole heading into the fourth quarter. They trailed by 17 with six minutes to go and should be commended for clawing their way back into this game. Defensive intensity and aggressiveness on offence brought the deficit down to one.
An admirable effort in a very difficult place to win on the road.
- Kyle Lowry was moving much better tonight. His 11 free throw attempts and activity level on defence were an indication that he is fully healthy again. He’s showing the extra gear that was lacking when he first returned from his ankle injury and more importantly, he wanted the ball down the stretch. In losses to San Antonio and Detroit he was deferring to others far too often. He is the ‘closer’ on this team and he needs to have the ball in crunch time.
Kyle likes to help on defence, and sometimes he gets burned. In a one-point game with two minutes left, he strayed too far from Ty Lawson – an excellent shooter – who made Lowry pay. Lawson had made enough shots throughout the game (and his career) to earn more respect and there was enough help being given on that particular play that Lowry should have stayed home.
Interesting note from the broadcast – Lowry is one of four players in the league to average at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game this season. The others are Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. #Allstar
- DeMar DeRozan’s first quarter pass from the baseline to a cutting Lowry, was something he couldn’t have done earlier in his career. His no-look pass to Pietrus in the third quarter was also a thing of beauty. DeMar’s passing is a rapidly improving skill. He also put on a nice dribbling exhibition in the second quarter, where he beat Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee for a lefty layup. The fact that there is still so much room for development in his game is reason for great optimism considering how far he’s already come.
- I got sick and tired of seeing Corey Brewer running free on the fast-break tonight. He’s a good defender, but Toronto’s sloppy ball handling cost them at least 15 points. If the Raps make any sort of trade, I would like to see them get a reliable ball handler/passer in return. There are no distributors on this roster apart from the three point guards. The Raptors started the fourth quarter with John Lucas on the floor, just to try and get more ball-handling. This cost on them on the defensive end, as they couldn’t compensate for a Lucas-Calderon backcourt.
- Ed Davis (6 pts, 9 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk) continued to show he is a more consistent player than Amir Johnson. His rebounding, shot-blocking and hustle on defence were a big reason Toronto fought back in this game. I wouldn’t be opposed to giving Davis a look in the starting lineup over Bargnani. It would make the Raptors a formidable defensive group.
- Terrence Ross isn’t afraid to take big shots and that’s a very valuable quality. His three-pointer with three minutes left in the final frame made it a one possession game. He also buried a pull-up three on the fast break in the third quarter — a difficult shot. Ross continues to show better ball handling skills than I had expected based on his performance in pre-season and summer league.
- Mickael Pietrus made his first start for Toronto. He’s not in game shape, but teams respect his corner three-point shot and he’s not a liability on defence. Pietrus is an adequate starter, but I would still like to see Ross get that opportunity at the two-spot, sliding DeMar to the three.
- Andrea Bargnani had a good night shooting the ball (10-20 FG) but his terrible play on the glass continued (4 rebounds). There were at least four missed box-outs in the first half, punctuated by Ty Lawson taking a rebound away from Bargs and converting a floater at the end of the half – a very demoralizing bucket.
- I’d like to see the Raptors switch more pick and rolls until they improve their rotations. Bargnani does a decent job on guards – as seen against the Suns – and Lowry is physical enough to battle bigs. I also like it when Casey mixes in their zone. He has a knack for using it at just the right time to disrupt an opponent’s rhythm.
- Jonas Valanciunas‘ hard foul on Javale McGee in the second quarter was a great sign. His hustle, rebounding and defensive presence are there on a consistent basis, but if he can provide a mean streak for Toronto, his value will rise even further. His reverse jam on Faried was perhaps his best offensive move of the season.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 24 Pts, 6/16 FG, 1/4 3PT, 11/11 FT, 3 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Blk, 3 TO in 33:48
Nuggets Player Of the Game: Corey Brewer – 19 Pts 9/15 FG, 1/2 3PT, 5 Reb, 4 Stl, 1 TO in 20:47
The Raptors have two winnable games coming up. They travel to Sacramento on Wednesday before heading to Utah for a revenge-game with the Jazz. Toronto should have an advantage in the back-court against Sacramento, so their main concern will be controlling DeMarcus Cousins. Utah burned the Raptors in triple-OT earlier this season after forcing overtime on Al Jefferson’s second career three-pointer.