Quick Reaction: Raptors 127, Nuggets 115

Barnes and Boucher and Birch forever. WHAT a win.

Box Score

P. Siakam36 MIN, 33 PTS, 5 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL, 12-22 FG, 2-4 3FG, 7-8 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -1 +/-

Hit his first shot of the game, which was a triple! Good sign, generally, and rare — he’s usually best starting at the rim and working his way out. Was really active in transition, even doing the Scottie Barnes in sprinting, sealing smalls under the rim, and tossing in layups. Hit his floaters and push shots, too, which is basically par for the course for him. His legs were exhausted in the second half, which led to him a) settling for jumpers and b) missing them. He still attacked the rim and made some toughies, particularly that little right-handed push shot off the glass.

P. Achiuwa21 MIN, 15 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 5-10 FG, 4-6 3FG, 1-1 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -2 +/-

His 3-pointers continue falling! He couldn’t limit Jokic, but then again no one can in isolation. Left on an island too often, but really didn’t help his case by even slowing Jokic at all. Needed to meet him higher and more physically (much, much easier said than done.) He was active on the offensive glass. Hit his quotum on shenanigans with a throwaway in transition trying to rock the above-the-head gather step-through. He started, but he didn’t earn the close, with Birch and Boucher both outplaying him. That’s fine.

S. Barnes39 MIN, 25 PTS, 8 REB, 10 AST, 2 STL, 11-20 FG, 2-4 3FG, 1-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, +15 +/-

Superstar stuff, for real. Not potential. Actual, legitimate superstar performance against Denver. Bullied Jokic at one point. His aggression was the engine of the whole thing, as his first attempt was a keeper that led to a two-handed smash. Importantly, though, it kept going on both ends, as he collected steals and sparked transition attempts. For real, he just snatched the ball away from hapless fools. Feasted on DeMarcus Cousins in isolation. Hit his jumpers. Butchered the Nuggets on the offensive glass. Basically a perfect game from him.

A. Brooks22 MIN, 3 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1-4 FG, 1-4 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -7 +/-

He has a hair trigger on his jumper, and he correctly let it fly with relative abandon. It would have been nicer to have made more! But that happens, no biggie, he took the right shots. Otherwise, fit in rather than out, pinging the ball around the perimeter and making quick decisions. Didn’t do too much with the ball. Defensively, he had a great possession, recognizing a Jokic postup before it happened and diving down there for a strip.

G. Trent Jr.31 MIN, 8 PTS, 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 2-13 FG, 1-6 3FG, 3-5 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -6 +/-

He probably didn’t take enough threes, and he probably took too many twos. Still, he stepped aside a little bit to let Barnes and Siakam cook. It would have been nice to supplement their punch with a little bit of pizzazz of his own, but his very presence spaced the floor for their actions — whether or not he made his shots.

T. Young23 MIN, 9 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL, 4-6 FG, 0-1 3FG, 1-1 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, +12 +/-

Really didn’t have it for most of tonight. Unnecessary fouls under the rim when he should have just given up the bucket, and offered very little rebounding or protection down there when he wasn’t fouling. At least he joined everyone else in gathering up offensive rebounds and putbacks like they were chocolates in an Easter egg hunt. In the fourth he dominated the non-Jokic minutes, throwing nifty passes (duh) and tossing in lefty floaters (also duh). Even had a bucket-saving strip under the rim on Boogie! His last stretch — the winning one — more than made up for his start.

C. Boucher30 MIN, 21 PTS, 13 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 8-15 FG, 1-5 3FG, 4-5 FT, 4 BLK, 0 TO, +15 +/-

Blocked some freakin’ shots tonight. Layups, threes. He forced a few misses that weren’t blocks, too. Really intimidating presence around the rim. When he wasn’t blocking shots, he was taking charges! He didn’t hit his threes on offense (until the clutchest one late), but he was still really beneficial, especially on the offensive glass. He’s indispensable for Toronto at the moment and a monstrous part of the team identity on both ends. One of the best games of his career. A++++

Y. Watanabe1 MIN, 3 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-1 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-

A 3!

K. Birch21 MIN, 8 PTS, 8 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-6 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, +19 +/-

His minutes were thrown all out of whack with Achiuwa starting. Still, his usual helpful stuff. Screened well for Siakam. Attacked the offensive glass. Solid! Also: finished a too-high alley-oop pass from Thad. More than solid! Spectacular, even. He was unreal during Toronto’s game-clinching stretch.

D. Banton17 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 5 AST, 0 STL, 1-4 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, +15 +/-

A tale of two stretches. His role is almost impossible to fulfill, especially for a rookie. How many guys in the league can legitimately change the pace and texture and feel of the game when they enter? Either way, he decidedly did not do it his first time on the court. But then he was on the floor when Toronto put the game in the bag, so hard to be too rough on him. He threw some DIMES during that stretch, too.

S. Mykhailiuk1 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-

Garbage time.

Nick Nurse

I liked Toronto’s zone looks for the most part, though they stayed in them for a few possessions too long at times. But realistically, nothing was working, so was there even a better option? As always, hard to know if Toronto’s defensive struggles were on Nurse; so, the Raptors just didn’t play defense — is that on the coach not getting the team ready? Or due to the game being the second of a back to back, and in altitude? I liked Nurse’s starting Achiuwa, and though the Thad-Boucher pairing wasn’t as logical, Boucher was fantastic, and Khem Birch was great as well in his role. All in all, a very solidly coached game despite Toronto’s defensive issues.

Things We Saw

  1. Toronto ran a 1-3-1 zone with Jokic out of the game, which did a great job forcing turnovers, or when they didn’t come, misses in crowds at the rim. Kick-started transition, too. Really great coaching decision — for a stretch. The Nuggets figured it out eventually, and the Raptors still stuck to it. They gave up three straight layups before switching back. A great miniature to show both how the NBA is brilliant and figures stuff out incredibly fast, but also to show how timing really matters, and staying in a defense even a few possessions too long can be a disaster.
  2. The Barnes and Siakam show. Goddamn godDAMN can they play together. Always seem to be looking for each other on cuts, dives, dump-offs, whatever. Both fantastic drivers, finishers, scorers in the post. What a game from the two of them, not just as individual scorers, but also as stars playing off of one another.
  3. The rim protection was non-existent. I mean, sure, Jokic gets his. But way, way too many other Nuggets just waltzed to the rim. This has been a consistent issue all year, so it’s not shocking, but it was frustrating. No rotations behind Jokic, or even when he wasn’t there to cause havoc. Boucher, at least, was great.
  4. The Raptors beat Denver’s non-Jokic lineup black and blue in the fourth. Cool stuff, and driven by Khem Birch’s finishing.