The results crisis is starting to drag on for the nuggets : after Chicago, San Antonio and Brooklyn, it is Toronto who managed to bring down, with style, the best team in the Western Conference.
Having entered their match ideally with a huge first quarter of 49 points on 57% on shots, the Raptors indeed spent a rather serene evening thanks to this effective attack which gave them a lead of up to 24 points (53% on shots, including 40% from behind the arc), like the card of Fred VanVleet (36 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals), facing this team of denver who is clearly struggling to play his basketball optimally in recent days, particularly in defense.
Serene in attack, Nick Nurse’s men were also in their half in the field: when a furious 28-10 passed by the Nuggets at the end of the third quarter reduced the gap to a single possession, the band of “Jurassic Park” took out the barbed wire in the final act to kill any hopes of a comeback completed with their opponents, which they maintained in effect at 18 points at 39% on shots.
In short, the Raptors released a benchmark game at a key moment in their season, when the race for the “play-in” is in full swing more than ever. But above all, the Canadian squad, by taking revenge against the Denver team against which they lost last week in Colorado after a stormy end to the game, put an end to their series of three defeats in a row.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– From the great Fred VanVleet. Missed out on his two games against the Clippers and the Lakers in Los Angeles at the end of the “road trip” west of Toronto, “FVV” found his basketball with style: a 36-point card (13 /22 including 8/12 behind the arc), 3 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals against the leader of the Western Conference! Sharp and above all effective in his choice of shots, imperturbable in the distribution and cantankerous in defense, the leader of the Raptors released a match worthy of the boss that he is in this team. He did not fail to recall it: the success of Toronto depends above all, in the first place, on the quality of its performances.
– The offensive rebound, vector of serenity for the Raptors. Not always a pleasure for the eyes this season, the attack of the club of Toronto was particularly effective against a defense of Denver far from giving itself all the means, in the effort in particular, to obstruct the adversary. Offensive rebounding in particular was a central factor in the Raptors’ brilliant night in the Nuggets’ half: 14 catches for Nick Nurse’s men, compared to just 4 for Mike Malone’s. And 15 points on second chances which thus added to the total of Toronto.
TOPS & FLOPS
✅ Scottie Barnes. Solid all-around performance for the Raptors nugget, who without frills compiled 18 points (50% on shots), 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and an exemplary defense, both vertically and laterally, against anyone in the Nuggets was trying to overtake him. Enough to easily forget his 4 ball losses, especially since he finished the meeting with the second best +/- of the match (+24).
✅ OG Anunoby. Like his teammate quoted just above, the British winger did sober and efficient: 24 points (10/14, including 4/8 at 3-pts), 3 rebounds and 3 assists. But the most qualitative was certainly his defense, whose efforts are not seen in the “boxscore”. Particularly on Nikola Jokic, against whom he spent a good part of the evening. If he failed to prevent the “Joker” from making a bulky copy in terms of raw statistics, the former Hoosier still managed, with physical defense and quick support, to maintain the Serbian pivot away from the circle. A feat in itself.
✅ Nikola Jokic. Not in triple-double, for once, the “Joker” nevertheless remained once again very strong on the floor of the Scotiabank Arena. Logically targeted by the defensive plans of the Raptors, who were working to keep him away from the circle, in particular by defending with two on him to force him to let go of the leather (his 4 ball losses can attest to this), the probable future triple MVP still managed to compile 28 points on just 10 shots scored, with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. A performance a bit less impressive than the monumental standards to which it has accustomed us for almost three years, but very solid nonetheless.
⛔️ Jamal Murray. Very disappointing match for the Canadian leader on his native land, with only 14 points at 5/18 on shots, and 9 assists but 5 bullet losses. Clearly in search of offensive rhythm lately, the native of Kitchener forced certain decisions and then never managed to weigh positively on the meeting for his people. He even ended up with the worst +/- of the match (-20)…
– Raptors (33-36): reception of the Thunder, on the night of Thursday to Friday (00:30).
– Nuggets (46-23): traveling to Detroit on Thursday night at Vernie (12:00 a.m.).