After another frustrating loss — the third straight for Toronto at home — DeRozan took charge in another way. By calling out his team, albeit somewhat gently. DeRozan, who scored 17 points in the loss (the first time in the past five games he hasn’t led the Raptors in scoring), let his frustrations bowl over. And though his tone was measured and his comments delivered almost in a whisper, the message was clear. “I’m frustrated, period,” said DeRozan, who also picked up seven rebounds and four assists. “Just losing at home, man. I mean, I hate it. I hate it with a passion and we just have to figure it out and turn it around on the road.” Easier said than done.
Amir Johnson sat in front of his locker room stall, his feet outstretched on another chair. His eyes were fixed on his phone, and the muffled sound was blasting out of the device. He was playing Fun Run about an hour in advance of his Toronto Raptors playing the Denver Nuggets. “It’s better with the sound on,” Johnson muttered when questioned by a teammate. Johnson, it was clear, was not his normal high-energy self. A little bit later, some of the reasoning became clear: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey chose to make the first change to his starting lineup of the year, in the 16th game. It made little difference, as the Raptors dropped their third-consecutive home game, falling 112-98 to the Denver Nuggets.
Finally, during the fourth, some productivity from Gay forced the Nuggets to call a time-out. Unfortunately, I can’t say the productivity lasted. The fourth consisted of back and fourth points. Toronto would put up a great shot, but Denver would return with an easy transition bucket. The Raps jogged out to their checks and constantly gave them time and space to shoot. In the fourth quarter alone, Nate Robinson had 18 points. The few times the Raptors did get out and defend, Robinson would add in a great step back to complete the play.
“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.
The Denver Nuggets bench had four players in double figures (with Andre Miller only a point shy of joining them at nine), with Nate Robinson leading all Nuggets scorers with 23 points, Jordan Hamilton had 10, Darrell Arthur added 14 (on a ridiculously efficient 7 of 7 from the floor. Arthur may have been one of the sneakiest trades of the off-season), and Timofey Mozgov… oh, hello Mozzie. I’ve been a Mozzie detractor at times, and I still remain firmly convinced that he has two sets of hands in a case somewhere, one set made of stone and butter, and the others the set he used today. Mozgov was all over the floor, and gave a couple of solid Raptors bigs fits all night. He had rim-rattling jams, both in transition and in tough traffic under the basket. His passing was solid. He gathered rebounds with intensity. With 16 points and a career-high 15 boards, Mozzie was the star of the game and deserves some credit. Now… I hope he loses those stone-and-butter hands on the flight to New York, and this is the guy we see game after game, but history says we’ll see some fluctuation there. In total, the bench contributed 72 of the Nuggets 112 points today.
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