The Denver Nuggets visited the Raptors on a 5 game winning streak and watched as their bench scored 72 points to carry them to the 112-98 victory. Nate Robinson scored 18 fourth quarter points to crush any hopes the Raptors had of pulling this game out at the end.
The game started amidst a minor controversy as Head Coach Dwane Casey wouldn’t release his starting lineup until game time as forward Tyler Hansbrough got his first start of the season in place of Amir Johnson.
The Nuggets started Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and Ty Lawson. Toronto started Hansbrough, Rudy Gay, Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
First Quarter 31-25 Raptors
Raptors go to Valanciunas in the post for their first offensive set. The hook shot misses, but the Raptors start running and beating the Nuggets at their own game. Halfway through the first quarter its 20-8 Raptors. Johnson subs in for Hansbrough after 7 minutes with Toronto leading 23-10, Hansbrough making his impact felt on the boards and all over the court. Valanciunas takes seat with 1.5 minutes left and the Raptors up 11. Instantly, Timofey Mozgov finds the rim unprotected for 4 quick points and the quarter ends 31-25 Raptors.
Second Quarter 47-45 Nuggets
Julyan Stone starts the second quarter as the changes continue for Coach Casey. The ball definitely moves better with Stone initiating the offense compared to recent second quarters and Stone deserved a couple more assists on open shots he helped create, but the Raptors hot first quarter shooting was going cold.
After 6 minutes, Lowry subs in for Stone with the Raptors up 2 points, but Toronto’s cold shooting becomes frozen and the Raptors only score 4 more points in the quarter to fall behind 45-47 at the half.
Denver’s bench scores 27 points in the half led by 7 points from Andre Miller and they out score their starters by 7. The Raptors are led by 12 points from DeMar DeRozan. Rudy Gay is filling up the stats sheet with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Third Quarter 76-72 Nuggets
The second half opens with a nice flow to the game. Up and down action and well executed sets with the occasional decent defensive play. Raptors up 60-58 after 6 minutes. After subbing in for Hickson, Mozgov continued his strong play off the bench getting blocked twice and then finishing with a dunk on the same play to keep the Nuggets within 2 points.
Quarter ends with DeRozan blocking Lawson on the fast break, but seconds later he suffers a brain cramp as he lets Darrell Arthur steal it from behind to score with 2 seconds left, 76-72 Nuggets.
Lawson leads the Nuggets with 16 points and 5 assists. Mozgov has 8 points and 12 rebounds, 2 boards off his career high. DeRozan leads the Raptors with 17 points and 7 rebounds. Valanciunas has his fourth double-double of the season. However, the Nuggets bench continued their assault on the Raptors as soon as they arrived in the third quarter.
Fourth Quarter 112-98 Nuggets
Nuggets reserves keep up the pressure in the fourth quarter, quickly building an 8 point lead and responding to every Raptors push. Mozgov records his first double-double of the season and Robinson scores 10 points in the first 7 minutes as the Raptors just can’t stop the Nuggets reserves from scoring.
Raptors did eventually did work their way back to within 5 points a couple of times, but the Nuggets responded. At the end, it was Robinson hitting back-to-back three pointers to put them up 107-96 with 1:39 left. Robinson putting his guns away and staring down the Raptors bench.
Robinson led the Nuggets with 23 points. Mozgov scored 16 points and pulled down a career high 15 rebounds. Darrell Arthur scored 14 points on 7-7 shooting. The Nuggets bench outscored their starters 72-40.
“Tonight was all about the contributions from our second unit,” Head Coach Brian Shaw said. “Our starters didn’t really have it going at all and our second unit, Andre Miller, Nate Robinson, Jordan Hamilton, Darrell Arthur and Timofey Mozgov came in and got us back into the game in the second quarter and when they came back at the end of the third quarter, when we were kind of struggling and stuck in the mud, they got us going again. 72 points off the bench is huge for us tonight and that’s what it takes, contributions from everybody on this team.”
The Raptors bench only scored 16 points.
Toronto was led by Rudy Gay with 23 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Valanciunas had 18 points and 11 rebounds and the Raptors got 17 points from each of DeRozan and Lowry.
Julyan Stone played 9 minutes off the bench backing up Lowry and had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 0 turnovers. Most importantly, he didn’t do anything overtly wrong and made a few good hustle plays. Hansbrough did seem to give the Raptors starting unit a noticeable lift and created space for his teammates with his physical play.
The Nuggets head to Brooklyn for Tuesday, Cleveland on Wednesday and Boston on Friday.
The Raptors head west to face the Warriors on Tuesday, the Suns on Friday and the Lakers on Sunday.
At 6-10, Toronto remains alone in first place in the Atlantic Division a half game ahead of Boston (7-12) and a full game ahead of Philadelphia (6-12). Apparently, no one wants to win this division.