Morning Coffee – Mon, Mar 2

24 mins read

They had a center. We didn’t.

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Raptors vs. Nuggets – Game Recap – March 1, 2020 – ESPN

The Nuggets tied a season high with 38 assists, doubling their total from their 29-point loss to the Clippers on Friday night. Coach Michael Malone said after that game that his team played soft, and Barton echoed that sentiment in the postgame locker room.

“We sometimes we can do a lot of assuming, being around each other so much. You can get complacent,” Monte Morris said. “For Will to stand up like that and let everyone know, down the line, play your role to a T, for him to stand up and do that made us come together even more.”

Denver played with more intensity Sunday, led by its All-Star center. Jokic has 40 triple-doubles in his short career, completing his latest by feeding Jerami Grant on a dunk that helped the Nuggets pull away from the Raptors, who lost their third straight.

Grant finished with 16 points for Denver, which had eight players score in double figures.

“Even though Nikola had a triple-double and other guys played well, I thought Jerami Grant’s performance was the most impactful,” Malone said.

Toronto played without Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet for a second straight game but got a career night from OG Anunoby, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting.

“It’s not tough,” Kyle Lowry, who finished with 17 points, said of playing short-handed. “Honestly, you’ve just got to play harder, and we’ve got to play a lot harder.”

OG Anunoby offers solace as size, injuries, Nikola Jokic catch up with Raptors – The Athletic

Toronto turned in a strong effort, with good fight underneath a barrage of early Denver shooting and just enough counterpunching to make it a game until the final minutes. The reality is that without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to help battle Jokic, the odds were always going to be long. Jokic might be the league’s toughest big man to go small against, not because he’s an unrelenting post bully but because zoning or doubling him is death. The Nuggets are the league’s best offensive team against a zone, and Jokic is at the forefront of that. He’s a gifted passer making any number of how-did-he-do-that skip passes, high-lows and outlets to keep the Denver offence humming.

“I just think it seems like it catches up with you just a little bit here and there, and that’s kind of just the difference in the game,” Nick Nurse said. “Like, there’s a putback here, a putback there, and just some pretty easy offence when he (Jokic) just goes down and parks in front of the rim and they throw it into him. There’s not much we can do because of the sheer size and strength of it. But in saying that, I think we actually did a lot of really good things. We played really hard. I think we had really good shots at 3s, we just didn’t hit enough of them.”

It was not Jokic’s 23 points — on 17 used possessions — that were a killer, though they obviously hurt. There were times he bulldozed through smaller defenders or outmaneuvered others. Cross-matching and switching saw just about everyone take a turn against Jokic, including Patrick McCaw. Jokic was quick to take advantage in those scenarios and even busted out a few possession-saving floaters and jumpers. He’s going to score with advantages like that, and that’s not where he truly dominated. Instead, it was the 18 rebounds and 11 assists that did the most damage. Every time the Raptors looked like they’d effectively address a Jokic fire, someone — cutting underneath the help along the baseline, flaring above the arc in a two-on-one weakside-zone situation — broke free with just enough daylight for Jokic to find him.

Raptors struggle to measure up vs. Jokic, Nuggets without Gasol, Ibaka – Sportsnet.ca

For the second consecutive game, Toronto started six-foot-six Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at centre. Not ideal.

Jokic – aptly nicknamed “Joker” – was the Nuggets’ best player, as he is most nights, in Denver’s 133-118 win. With the Raptors trying to hang on down the stretch of what was an intense, entertaining game, he began to assert himself even more. A light-footed post-move here, a one-handed rebound and a full-court football throw there.

He comfortably controlled the game, either by bringing the ball up as the world’s biggest, slowest point guard, posting up and spreading the ball around when the doubles came or scanning over the defence from his favourite spot at the foul line. Defensively he stood tall at the rim, Gasol style. He snuffed out the Raptors’ last gasp with a block on a driving Pascal Siakam at one end, and put the Nuggets up 13 with 2:11 left on a hand-off under the rim for a dunk by Jerami Grant at the other.

The assist gave Jokic a triple-double as he finished with 23 points on 11 shots to go along with 18 rebounds and 10 assists.

“I just think it seems like it catches up with you just a little bit here and there and that’s kind of just the difference in the game,” said Nurse of being so undersized. “Like, there’s a putback here and putback there, and just some pretty easy offence when he (Jokic) just goes down and parks in front of the rim and they throw it into him. There’s not much we can do because of the sheer size and strength of it.”

It all came pretty easily to Denver, which shot 56.6 per cent from the floor and 18-of-36 from deep with an impressive 39 assists on 47 field goals. The Raptors shot 46.1 per cent, but only 26.3 from three.

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry argued that even short-handed, Toronto could have left more on the floor. He wasn’t in the mood for excuses.

Nuggets extend Raptors losing streak on strength of Jokic triple-double | CBC Sports

“Even though Nikola had a triple-double and other guys played well, I thought Jerami Grant’s performance was the most impactful,” Malone said.

Toronto played without Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet for a second straight game but got a career night from OG Anunoby, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting.

“It’s not tough,” Kyle Lowry, who finished with 17 points, said of playing short-handed. “Honestly, you’ve just got to play harder, and we’ve got to play a lot harder.”

Denver hit its first nine 3-point attempts — five by Jamal Murray, who had 17 of his 22 points in the first 12 minutes — before Morris missed with 1:06 left in the first quarter. The Nuggets shot 63.6 per cent in the first quarter and 60 per cent in the first half.

Denver hit 50 per cent from long range and finished the game 56.6% from the field.

“We didn’t do a good job of guarding them and putting some pressure on them,” Pascal Siakam said. “They had a lot of back-cuts, easy layups. Not a lot of protection under the rim.”

Toronto Raptors fall to Denver Nuggets despite career night from Anunoby – TSN.ca

The Nuggets tied a season high with 38 assists, doubling their total from their 29-point loss to the Clippers on Friday night. Coach Michael Malone said after that game that his team played soft, and Barton echoed that sentiment in the postgame locker room.

“We sometimes we can do a lot of assuming, being around each other so much. You can get complacent,” Monte Morris said. “For Will to stand up like that and let everyone know, down the line, play your role to a T, for him to stand up and do that made us come together even more.”

Denver played with more intensity Sunday, led by its All-Star centre. Jokic has 40 triple-doubles in his short career, completing his latest by feeding Jerami Grant on a dunk that helped the Nuggets pull away from the Raptors, who lost their third straight.

Grant finished with 16 points for Denver, which had eight players score in double figures.

“Even though Nikola had a triple-double and other guys played well, I thought Jerami Grant’s performance was the most impactful,” Malone said.

Toronto played without Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet for a second straight game but got a career night from OG Anunoby, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting.

“It’s not tough,” Kyle Lowry, who finished with 17 points, said of playing short-handed. “Honestly, you’ve just got to play harder, and we’ve got to play a lot harder.”

Denver hit its first nine 3-point attempts — five by Jamal Murray, who had 17 of his 22 points in the first 12 minutes — before Morris missed with 1:06 left in the first quarter. The Nuggets shot 63.6% in the first quarter and 60% in the first half.

Denver hit 50 per cent from long range and finished the game 56.6% from the field.

“We didn’t do a good job of guarding them and putting some pressure on them,” Pascal Siakam said. “They had a lot of back-cuts, easy layups. Not a lot of protection under the rim.”

Nuggets coach Malone high on Siakam, Davis, Raptors | Toronto Sun

Siakam’s story has been well told, but not many players have followed the journey he has.

“Love watching him play, the guy plays the game the right way, and you always root for guys like Pascal, who no one really knew about or expected much from. He expected a lot from himself and what he does on a nightly basis is just amazing.”

Meanwhile, Davis has taken an unconventional path of his own to the NBA. Undrafted out of Ole Miss, Davis opted to play NBA Summer League basketball for Denver in Las Vegas back in July. After one impressive performance, the Raptors decided they had seen enough and put a full-court press on the Davis camp, eventually signing him to an NBA deal. Davis immediately switched to Toronto’s Summer League squad and has averaged 8.1 points and 3.5 rebounds as one of only two rookies this season to play in every game.

“That’s a front office question, I didn’t know anything about Terence Davis,” Malone said when asked how Denver had let Davis get away. “Our guys liked him a lot after the draft when he went undrafted, so a lot of teams missed on Terence Davis.

“Obviously after one game, the Raptors came in and made him an offer but as far as all the other stuff, I really can’t speak to that.

“(I) enjoyed getting to know him when he was here for summer league practices leading up to Vegas and when he left us after one game, class act, he came around to everybody and thanked them for the opportunity that we allowed him. You root for guys like Terence, he’s another guy like Pascal that a lot of people missed on and has just done wonders in his rookie season.”

Raptors’ tricks can’t slow Jokic as Nuggets prove that size matters sometimes | The Star

Players have had big games out of nowhere — remember Pat McCaw’s 11-assist gem in Boston or Terence Davis’s offensive explosion one night in Boston? — and that’s helped them thrive against the odds many times.

But there is a law of averages, or maybe it’s just pure sporting reality, and eventually all the bad stuff has to catch up with a team. It has for the Raptors over the last couple of games.

Their best players have not played nearly their best, they have lost two big men with basically no one to replace them. and now they are in the throes of their worst losing streak since early December.

But, really, given all the good things that happened to them in the first 50 games of the season when they probably shouldn’t have, who’s to complain about a bit of adversity now?

The Raptors, more than they have at any point in this injury-ravaged season, really are making it up as they go, and it caught up with them in a 133-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, like it did in a loss to Charlotte on Friday and like it did in a defeat at the hands of Milwaukee last Tuesday.

Losing both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka has been particularly crippling for the last couple of games and will be until one or both of them can get back in the lineup. Chris Boucher is too slight and too soft to handle prolonged minutes as a centre, so Toronto has been Houston Rockets-like in the size department.

Three Lessons from the Raptors: On OG, Matt Thomas, and the East – Raptors HQ

1. OG Anunoby Does Not Get Scared
OG Anunoby has had an up and down season. He can look like the Platonic Ideal of an NBA role player, playing solid defense, hitting threes, and taking open lanes to the rim. On the other hand, he can look lost and virtually disappear offensively. Whatever the reason is for his sporadic offensive struggles, it is certainly not an issue of being overwhelmed by the moment.

Even through his slumps I have remained confident in OG Anunoby’s future because of the mental toughness that he showed in his first trip to the playoffs. Anunoby stared down the King and did not blink. In the franchise altering series where the Cavaliers swept the Raptors for the second consecutive year, Anunoby was by far the best Raptor, relative to expectations. Even as LeBron hit fadeaway after fadeaway with OG in his grill, he stayed tough and battled every possession.

After missing last year’s playoffs due to an emergency appendectomy, he continued this trend. In one of the biggest games of the regular season thus far, the Raptors’ matchup in Toronto against the Milwaukee Bucks, OG was a lone bright spot among the starters. Everything about this game felt like the playoffs. Both teams clearly had jitters and got out to a slow offensive start. The crowd was into the game from the jump.

10 things: OG Anunoby’s career night not enough to overcome uphill battle vs. Nuggets

Three — Productive: What you hope with a game like this is for Siakam to grow from it. His scorching start to the season exaggerated expectations, but the path to becoming a superstar is hardly linear. There will be challenges along the way, and what makes a star in the end is how that player adjusts to them. What we’re seeing with Siakam is that his skillset isn’t reliable enough to produce against elite defenses. If he’s going to operate from the perimeter, then his handle and his jumper need to be sharper. If he’s going to be elite out of the post like Nikola Jokic, then his passing and strength need to improve. Lost amid all the unexpected wins this season is that it was always going to be a developmental year, and what matters at the end isn’t what seed they secure or what milestone they get to, it’s how much Siakam and the rest of the players can add to their games come time for the playoffs.

Four — Mismatch: The Raptors have been able to neutralize just about every first option in the league this season, but stopping Jokic without a viable center is impossible. From the jump, the Raptors struggled to check Jokic, who had his way with every undersized wing the Raptors threw at him. When the double teams and the zone packages came out, Jokic’s otherworldly playmaking became the focus and the Nuggets started raining threes. At one point the Raptors sent all five players to Jokic on the block, and still that wasn’t enough to stop him as Jokic drew a shooting foul.

Nuggets offense explodes in victory over defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors – Denver Post

The game featured two teams desperate for a bounce-back performance. Denver entered after a 29-point drubbing at the Clippers on Friday. Toronto had dropped two straight home games, against the Bucks and Hornets. Each franchise is fighting to maintain playoff seeding near the top of its respective conference.

“There was no panic,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We were all disappointed in the game in L.A. We also knew that’s not who we have been in a long period of time, but unfortunately, it happened. You have to learn from it.”

Jamal Murray dominated the opening 12 minutes. The Nuggets’ starting point guard made his first six shots from the field, including five straight from 3-point range, to record 17 first-quarter points. The Nuggets caught fire from deep, hitting nine consecutive shots behind the arc, and they began the second with a cool 40 points.

Rookie Michael Porter Jr. checked in with under four minutes left in the first quarter. He finished a two-handed slam through contact in the third quarter and converted the and-one opportunity. Porter’s stat line: 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes played. Three early fouls on Mason Plumlee also led reserve forward Vlatko Cancar to earn surprise minutes (his 13th game appearance this season).

Despite the Nuggets’ first-quarter scoring outburst, the Raptors stayed within striking distance in the second, and a Kyle Lowry triple at the 4:36 mark tied the game at 60 apiece. But Murray traded his hot hand to reserve small forward Torrey Craig, who poured in 12 second-quarter points, and Denver entered halftime leading 73-69 behind fantastic ball movement: 26 assists on 27 made shots.

Recap: Nuggets stiffen up against Raptors, dominate on offense – Denver Stiffs

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