Archive for the ‘Denver Nuggets’ Category

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.

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The Raptors have lost eight straight in Denver in mostly embarrassing fashion. The Nuggets have lost three straight overall. Something’s gotta give tonight.

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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.

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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

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Denver: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Kennth Faried, JaVale McGee

Injury report

Toronto: DeMar DeRozan is expected to return tonight, but James Johnson is out with a respiratory infection and Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Denver: Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Fernandez and Kosta Koufos are out.

With just a half-game advantage over Houston for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Nuggets need to win games like this one to maintain their hold on a playoff spot. Coming off a dominant win over the Bulls on Monday in which the Nuggets’ starting backcourt of Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo combined for 49 points — as well as four straight games scoring over 100 points — Denver continues to feature one of the most potent offenses in the NBA.

The Raptors’ offense is on the other end of the potency spectrum, but the expected return of DeMar DeRozan to their lineup should provide a little boost. Having lost five of their last six games and with a five-year gap since their last win over the Nuggets on March 23, 2007, the Raptors have to be considered heavy underdogs in this matchup. Perhaps Gary Forbes will continue his recent hot streak with some significant playing team against his former team.

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I want Monta Ellis to be my handshake coach.

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think trading Jose Calderon is as dire a need as a lot of other Raptors fans believe. It’s not the worst thing in the world if Calderon is the team’s starting point guard heading into next season. Having said that, I’m obviously still of the belief that if you can find a deal that gives the Raptors more flexibility, draft picks and young assets to build with, I’m all for it.

With that, and given that the NBA’s trade deadline is now just a week away (Thursday, March 15), here are three realistic trade proposals I’ve come up with involving Calderon and the Raptors. The key word here is “realistic.” I didn’t try to find trades that land the Raptors a superstar or a first round pick from a cellar dwelling team. These are all deals that I believe could conceivably help both teams involved and that would all work, according to ESPN’s trade machine.

Trade 1: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Portland for Raymond Felton ($7.5 million expiring contract) and a draft pick

This is the trade most fans are talking about, and it does make a lot of sense for both teams. Portland gets an obvious upgrade at the point in Calderon, who they can keep next season, while the Raptors get a point guard who can simply finish the season in Toronto, but more importantly, the Raps get an expiring contract. I would want the Trail Blazers to throw in a draft pick, as Calderon is a much more valuable player than Felton is right now. The problem is that the Blazers could be a lottery team, and I can’t see them parting with a lottery pick just to acquire Jose.

Trade 2: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Atlanta for Kirk Hinrich ($8.1 million expiring contract) and a draft pick

While Josh Smith could be on his way out of Atlanta, as off right now, the Hawks are still a legitimate Eastern Conference playoff team that I can’t see blowing things up and rebuilding just yet. They could be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but there are also stretches where they look poised to make another deep run. With this deal, Atlanta improves greatly at the point and gets a lead guard who does a fine job taking care of the ball, something I’m sure a playoff team might value. Just like with my proposed Portland trade, the Raptors get a half capable point guard on a fairly large expiring contract to finish off this rebuilding season. And just like the Portland deal, I’d still want the Hawks to throw in a draft pick to even things out. Atlanta should be picking somewhere between 17 and 25 in the draft, so they might be more willing to cough up a first round pick than the Blazers. Though perhaps second round picks are more realistic in these proposed deals.

Trade 3: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Utah for Devin Harris or for Trade Exception and draft pick

While I see a Calderon for Harris swap as “realistic,” I would not support such a trade. Harris will still be owed $8.5 million next season, so the Raptors would basically be downgrading their position at the point simply to save a couple million dollars next year. For anyone thinking Devin Harris is still a younger point guard with some untapped potential, he’s actually only 17 months younger than Calderon. This would be making a deal simply for the sake of making a deal. It doesn’t make much sense for the Raptors. As for the other proposed trade with the Jazz, the Raptors could simply take on a $9.7 million trade exception (from the Mehmet Okur trade) and perhaps even take Utah’s second round pick. Minnesota owns Utah’s first round pick this season (lottery protected), and I doubt the Jazz would be willing to part with Golden State’s top-seven protected first round pick. A trade for the exception, without a player coming to Toronto in return, would give the Raptors more financial flexibility over the next year and would likely give them a better chance in the draft lottery.

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If the Mavericks weren’t in the running for Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard this summer (and I believe they are the dark horse team that could scoop up both), I’d suggest a Calderon for Kidd trade that nets the Raptors a $10.1 million expiring contract. While I think Calderon would be an upgrade over Kidd for Dallas, I don’t think the Mavs would be willing to mess much with their chemistry or would be willing to mess with their advantageous cap situation this off-season.

Worth mentioning: The two teams who might just need Jose Calderon the most, or at least who are in most need of a point guard, are the Lakers and the Magic. The problem is that neither team has the type of assets Toronto covets and even the Lakers’ trade exception from the Lamar Odom deal wouldn’t cover Calderon’s nearly $10 million salary this season. For the Lakers or Magic to acquire Jose from the Raptors, the deal would have to involve a third team or more. If L.A. or Orlando can get a third team involved that brings attractive assets to the table for Toronto, then either team could be in the mix.

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All of the proposed deals mentioned involve the Raptors clearing cap space for this off-season, but it’s important to remember that Toronto probably doesn’t figure into any of the big free agent targets’ plans. If Calderon had two years or more left on his deal, I’d want the Raptors to rid themselves of that contract as soon as possible. But realistically, Jose’s contract doesn’t hamper the Raps this summer (Toronto should have at least $10 million in cap space) given the team’s still modest expectations.

This is why as enticing as cap space would be, I still say that the Raptors should be looking for draft picks or young assets in potential Calderon deals. If there isn’t a good deal to be made, then there’s nothing wrong with letting Jose run the offence with a team that will once again be young and fairly inexperienced next season.