Well that was quite the ending, now wasn't it?
For those of you who changed the channel after halftime, I won't necessarily blame you for it. Let's look at some of the game stats:
-The Toronto Raptors trailed 61 to 44 after two quarters, which included being outscored 32-20 in the second frame.
-The Denver Nuggets grabbed more offensive rebounds (16) than Toronto did in total (14) during that first half.
-Andrea Bargnani (who finished with 23 points on the night) had more turnovers in the opening 24 minutes (1) than he did rebounds, assists, blocks and steals combined (0).
-Denver also outhustled the Raptors on the fast break (13-0) as well.
There wasn't a lot to be smiling about. Sheesh.
Even after three quarters, the Raptors were still trailing by 13 points.
About midway through the fourth quarter, everything started to click.
Toronto would score 11 straight points before Danilo Gallinari hit two free throws. A key three-pointer by rookie Terrence Ross and two more free throws by Kyle Lowry closed it to within one at 105-104.
Nuggets guard Ty Lawson hit a 3 of his own to increase Denver's lead to four at 108-104. The Raptors then missed their next three shots as the Nuggets had a 110-104 lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game.
A Lowry three-pointer with 14 seconds left and an Amir Johnson long-range bomb with just 7.6 seconds remaining kept things interesting near the end. Heck, DeMar DeRozan even had a chance to tie things with the game clock expiring.
Outcomes like this are always disappointing. Watching this team make such a valiant last stand in the fourth, only to lose the game in the end was heartbreaking to witness live.
There are positives to take away from this though, especially coming from the perspective of someone who tries to see the best in every situation.
Terrence Ross continues to evolve right before our very eyes. He finished the night with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2 daggers from behind the arc, including a key three late in the game. His stellar play will certainly garner him more PT down the road. It's exciting to think of the potential he has to grow into something truly remarkable for this franchise. I'm not trying to put him on the pedestal just yet, but I loved what I saw last night out of the rookie.
The resiliency of the players in the fourth quarter was also something to be commended. It would have been easy to just throw in the towel and give away yet another game on the road, but our guys hung in there, persevered and showed a willpower that we as fans want to see more of in the future.
The starting backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan played outstanding basketball, combining for 42 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. Lowry even found himself getting to the line 11 times, hitting all of his free-throw attempts.
I suppose I should give a little bit of love to Andrea Bargnani, but only for his shooting. He finished with 23 points on 10 for 20 from the floor.
I will however get on him for his lack of focus, enthusiasm, attention to detail and overall effort for about 85-90% of the game. There were times on the court where Andrea looked completely uninterested. Zero first-half rebounds for a man of his stature (not girth, but he's a tall man) is simply unacceptable.
Through the first 24 minutes of the game, everyone at home who was watching the game on their television sets had just as many rebounds as Andrea.
It's almost laughable when you think about it.
Sending the Denver Nuggets to the charity stripe 43 times didn't help matters either. The Nuggets only hit 27, which equiates to just 62%. When you think about it, if they were able to hit just 10 more from the line, perhaps we wouldn't be congratulating Toronto on their fourth quarter push.
The Raptors now move on to play the 4-12 Sacramento Kings Wednesday night. This is really a game that we should walk away with, especially if we continue the momentum we built on in the fourth quarter last night. Realistically, the Kings are probably looking at this game as a victory as well.
With both teams struggling to start the year, nothing is for sure.