So, on the surface, there does not appear to be much Casey picked up from Karl in his time in Seattle. Karl is praised consistently for being innovative, while Casey is on the traditionalist end of the spectrum. “Some of it’s called job security,” Casey said before his team’s 109-108 win over the Nuggets, explaining Karl’s mindset. “If you’ve got job security, you can think out of the box and think ahead and say, ‘You know, it just didn’t work.’ You have to do that and really believe in it.
When Raptors head coach Dwane Casey could finally put him back in, Gay didn’t disappoint. He drained the winning bucket with 4.8 seconds to play and Toronto won its third straight by defeating the short-handed Denver Nuggets 109-108 on Tuesday night. “My hands were sweating, I couldn’t stop moving my legs. I was itching to get back in,” said Gay, who finished with 17 points after leading Toronto in scoring with 20 or more points in all five games since coming over in a trade with Memphis. “Obviously it’s not a game I’m proud of, but I’m proud to get a win with the team. I’m happy the team still had confidence in me.”
This game was Toronto’s version of all-star weekend. The first half was the dunk contest, as the Raptors jammed down dunk after dunk after dunk, and mixed in some alley-oops in as well. John Lucas’ 3-point barrage early in the fourth quarter was our 3-point contest, as he hit four straight uncontested threes in a short span. And of course, Rudy Gay’s game winning shot was our All-star game, as Rudy displayed some All-Star caliber talent.
With Ty Lawson bricking his potential game-winner on the other end, the Raptors have now won three straight and improve to 4-2 with Gay in the lineup, with Rudy winning two of those four games on big shots in the last five seconds. I know his shooting percentages aren’t good right now, but again, his five-game PER as a Raptor coming into this game was an impressive 19.8 and he’s already hit two game-winners. Could the Rudy Gay Era in Toronto have gotten off to a better start?
The Nuggets absolutely dominated and abused the Raptors inside tonight, outscoring Toronto 70-34 in the paint and out-rebounding the Raps 45-38. They also got a monster performance from Ty Lawson, who until the last shot of the game, basically got wherever he wanted to go against the Raptors’ defence. All in all, it was a spirited effort from a Denver team missing three key players in Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.
Flashes in the Pan: That is all the Nuggets will be if they continue to not be able to win on the road. I know the team was missing four key players but they had a chance to steal a game against a probable lottery team and didn’t execute simple things like layups and defensive rotations right. As has been the problem all year, this is a different team on the road, and that has to change or the Nuggets will stay as just a team no one wants to play in the first round, instead of a true contender.
Injuries or not, the Nuggets actually played pretty well. The Nuggets got major league performances from point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, and Kenneth Faried continued his fine play at power forward with 15 points (on 8 attempts) and 11 rebounds. But with Gallo, Iguodala, Chandler and then JaVale McGee (who hurt his leg in the first half) all out, the Nuggets were dependent on their youngsters.
Entertainment wise, this was among the season’s best, made even more memorable by how the final period would play out, how fans were able to relish a Raptors win on a night when the outcome was literally decided on the final possession. At one point, there were four point guards on the floor, a glorified track meet. At one point, Rudy Gay would be banished to the bench after picking up his fifth foul. With the margin for error so slim, every possession, especially in the last minute, became precious. The Raptors were able to control a rebound, an extra possession that allowed the team to draw up an iso for Gay on the right wing, his sweet spot.
The swingmen continue to play well alongside each other, in spite of the things that critics pointed out when the trade was first made to bring Gay to Toronto. Two perimeter players with similar skill sets and yet they are making it make sense. Against the Nuggets, DeRozan led the team with 22 points and eight rebounds while Gay finished with 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. It was DeRozan who got off to a solid start and kept things humming while Gay was on the bench saddled with foul trouble. When the fourth quarter hit, Derozan’s shooting touch left him, just in time for Gay to swoop in for the final bucket.
Some sloppy play from the Raps was offset by great work on the offensive glass, leading to key second-chance points in the fourth. The last came after a missed Alan Anderson jumper that, had Denver got the rebound, would’ve given them the ball with the lead under 24 seconds. Instead, the Raps were able to set up an offense and run that already-familiar Rudy Gay isolation play on the baseline. Gay, cool as a cucumber, drained the jumper with five seconds left. Lawson missed a running jumper at the other end, sealing the victory for Toronto
“We have a legit closer. He is not scared to make those tough shots or those end of the shot clock shots. Give him the ball and he gets it in the bucket. We haven’t had that in awhile.” I would go as far to say as the Raptors haven’t had that since Vince Carter was in the building. When the Raptors played back in those days, you always felt they had a chance to beat anyone. Raptor fans have been so use to this team giving away leads and finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in more recent times.
“He’s a big time player, he’s a closer,” gushed Dwane Casey, the Raptors coach after his team won for the third straight outing. “His role card, it will be all across the front of it – closer. “He’s done it his whole career.” All Gay has done since his arrival is lead the Raptors in scoring in five of his first six games, where he scored at least 20 points. Tuesday night he finished with just 17, but drained the one that counted.