“Defensively they had a lot of mismatches,” Triano said. “I thought when Chauncey Billups got two fouls on Jerryd Bayless and we had to play him with a guy who is a non-natural point guard, that hurt us.
“Then our (power forwards) couldn’t stay at all with Al Harrington. He just drove past them. He used his quickness to spread the floor, so they went with a smaller lineup and we had to try and match that. But we can’t play defence for half a game. I thought in the second half we attempted and that’s all I ask of our guys.”
Somehow the Raptors managed to claw this one back to a four-point deficit in the final minute and appeared to have the stop that would give them a slim chance when Billups’ jump shot hit front rim and bounced back. But when both Sonny Weems and Linas Kleiza converged on the loose ball, they somehow managed to knock it out of bounds, despite the lack of Denver players in the vicinity, which took the Raptors hopes from slim to just about non-existent.
Unlike a week ago against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when an injured Kevin Durant was out and the Raps could lock in on Russell Westbrook, the Raptors last night didn’t appear to lock in on anyone at any point in the night.
It began with Billups and Nene torching the Raptors from inside and out, continued with Al Harrington, moved on temporarily to JR Smith for a bit, and then went to Gary Forbes, the guy who replaced Anthony in the starting five.
The Pistons have won just one in their past seven and just two in its past 10. Despite that they are 5-5 playing at home. Like the Raptors, they will be arriving in Detroit having played the night before. The Pistons were in Minneapolis Friday night to play the Timberwolves. Scoring has been a big problem in Detroit where the Pistons are averaging just 93.2 points a night, 29th in the NBA. They are also dead last in rebounding relying on the aged Ben Wallace. The one part of their game that has been decent has been their three-point effort, both defending it and using it to spark what little offence they have. The Pistons shoot 38% as a team from the three-point line, good enough for eighth in the NBA.
“Our fours couldn’t stay at all with Harrington,” said Toronto coach Jay Triano after his team fell to 8-15 on the season. “He just drove past them and used his quickness and they spread the floor.
“He’s a nightmare matchup for guys. I couldn’t keep Ed Davis on the floor, I couldn’t play Amir (Johnson) because they couldn’t guard him. I had to go with somebody smaller.”
That somebody was, for most of the night, Linas Kleiza, who responded with a season-best 26 points. But his inability to keep Harrington under control rendered his contribution rather moot.
And toss in a particularly ugly first half for every Toronto defender – the Nuggets scored 74 points in the first two quarters, the most surrendered by a Raptor team at home in a half in franchise history – and it was a predictable result.
“We were unable to keep guys in front of us . . . they’re a very athletic team, they have mismatches at every position,” said Toronto’s Sonny Weems, who had 21 points. “They did a great job of executing it.”
Under no circumstances – ever – should DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems, starters on an NBA team, combine to play 71 minutes of basketball, take a combined 28 field goal attempts and not once – NOT ONCE – get to the free throw line. That’s unacceptable.
I don’t know what Jay can do because I know he wants them to drive the ball a lot more, but that’s simply not good enough.
Toronto made it easier than it needed to be. Although the Nuggets were missing Carmelo Anthony, their top scorer and rebounder who was out with a bum right knee, practically non-existent defense from the Raptors allowed the Nuggets to put on a virtual shooting clinic in the fist half. Guard Chauncey Billups put in 18, Al Harrington had 19, and Arron Afflalo contributed 17. Toronto was saved by a hot Linus Kleiza, who wracked up 19 points in the first half, including 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
(Must’ve felt good for Kleiza, who had a limited role during his four years with the Nuggets and finished the game with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Likewise for Sonny Weems, a Nugget benchwarmer who now starts for Toronto. He finished with 21 points).
At halftime Friday, Denver led 74-65. The 74 were the most first-half points the Raptors have ever allowed at home. . . . This summer, the Raptors made a contract offer to Linas Kleiza, which the Nuggets had the opportunity to match. Denver didn’t. Kleiza (9.6 points per game) scored 26 points Friday night, and Sonny Weems, another former Nugget, scored 21.
Jaw-dropping offense, considering Melo didn’t play.
In the fourth, while the Raptors continued to show energy, they could not close the gap. A ridiculous step back three-pointer from Harrington crushed a little more hope and Amir Johnson’s foul trouble interrupted the defence in key moments. When he returned at the 5:58 mark and his team down by 10 the damage was done. A telling sequence came later in the quarter when Weems hit a three to cut Denver’s lead to seven and glared at the Nuggets bench on his way back up the court. Too bad Nuggs reserve J.R. Smith was responding with a three -pointer of his own during the stare down, answering Weems before he even knew what happened.
Then came the crunch time where Bargnani, the emerging star of this Raptors team, hit a clutch three pointer to trim the Nuggets lead to four with 46.9 seconds to play. Later, a 20-second Raptors timeout with 19.5 left on the game clock failed to generate anything on the court and with Billups hitting 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch the game was sealed. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Raptors who were too spent to get over the hump. Karl got his 1,000th win in the same building he copped his 900th two seasons ago. The Raptors, as they did back then, were left to lick their wounds.