Lacing Them Up
On an Easter Sunday with the ACC packed to the brim the Toronto Raptors were looking to rebound against a Denver Nuggets team that absolutely embarrassed them the last time they met.
The end result? Close but no cigar.
Sunday’s affair was extremely entertaining (which is a good thing given that a boring game would have been very difficult to watch considering the last few days of NCAA ball) but the Raps, despite a number of opportunities, couldn’t execute down the stretch resulting in a 108-100 loss.
During the last two minutes of the game, Toronto simply couldn’t get it done and surprisingly enough it was Denver’s defense that helped them secure the win.
Denver’s defense helping secure a win? That is almost as surprising as Davidson's victory over Georgetown!
We all knew Denver could score. Their offense is just so potent. I mean was there a single point in the game when you felt secure with the lead the Raps had?
If you’ve watched the Nuggets at all this year you know this is a team that can just ignite and catch fire at any time. Not just AI and Carmelo, but the whole team. The second half, in particular the fourth quarter, was a perfect example of that.
AI and Carmelo were the focal point and they dominated the ball but shots were falling for their whole team as Carter, Najera and Kleiza all hit big shots.
This Nuggets team can score with the best of them. Point blank. Now if only they could play defense as well as they can score the ball. For 46 minutes the Raps looked very solid on the offensive end. Although the shots didn’t fall like they did in the first half, the Raps found the shots they wanted without much resistance.
The problem was the other two minutes of course.
In the last 120 seconds the Raps had the same number of turnovers, two, as points, while the Nuggest scored 12.
That’s simply poor execution down the stretch and it cost the Raps dearly. This was a winnable game (which is night and day compared to the last match-up and it shows the importance of CB4), and the Raps let it get away.
A Numbers Game
I look at this game in two ways. On one side of the coin it’s so much better to watch this team at full health. With Bosh they can compete with anyone, they just didn’t finish and that happens. On the other side of the coin they really blew it. When Franchise talked about the three keys to a victory the Raps started a perfect 3 for 3. Toronto controlled the tempo early and came out strong. They also out-rebounded the Nuggets in the first half and played the perimeter fairly well. The second half things started to change. The Nuggets started to re-assert themselves on the glass (the teams ended up tied) and despite some solid defense, they simply hit difficult shots. The deep 3’s were especially daggers.
How good were the 3's?
Try 11 of 22.
This simply killed the Raps. There were definitely some open looks and some defensive breakdowns on the Raps part but some of them were just big shots. The Nuggets got hot and the Raptors couldn’t match. In particular the Raps didn’t have anyone to match-up against Mr. Iverson. His 11-16 from the floor with 5-8 from downtown was just too much.
The Turning Point
Well it is pretty clear at this point that the game came right down to the wire when the Nuggest simply outplayed Toronto. Down the stretch you simply can’t turn the ball over and expect to win, at least not against a team that thinks they can score at any point and in any fashion. This is something that the Raptors will have to improve on before the playoffs roll around. Too many games late in the year and in the second season are decided in the last 120 seconds.
We all know the last two minutes of an NBA game are the longest two minutes in sports. They are also the most important minutes as games can be won, lost and stolen during this time period.
Hot – Chris Bosh. If it wasn’t for the last two minutes CB4 would have fallen in the scorching hot category. Still working his way back, his 17-12-9 game was very impressive. Bosh has always been a decent passer but he was really putting it on display in this game. Sweet passes to fellow big-men Rasho and Bargs were great to see. When I see Andrea and Bosh hook up on great plays it really gets me pumped as I envision those sorts of plays on a regular basis for years to come. Perhaps the most important thing for me to see tonight was that Bosh was aggressive against a tough match-up in Kenyon Martin and it looks like he didn’t come back too early considering his injury issues.
Hot – Jamario Moon. Super Jamario has started to look like the player that worked his way into the starting rotation earlier this season. He is doing a first-rate job on the glass and playing strong D. Although Carmelo got his, Jamario did made it tough on this offensive juggernaut. Moon had some amazing blocks (not just on the help side) and is playing much better as of late. Now if only we could get him to go to the rim on a more regular basis...
Hot – Carmello Anthony and Allen Iverson. Not sure this needs much explanation, these two simply carried the load offensively for their club.
Cold - Denver’s PG Play. Aside from this teams' defense, if there is one glaring hole on this team it is the PG play. Hell even Steve Blake would be a huge upgrade. I found it surprising at the break when all the talk was about the Nuggets looking at acquiring Ron Artest as it seems pretty clear to me that this team needs a PG. And hasn’t this always been something that has plagued Iverson’s career?
Luke Warm – The Raptors. The Raps still are not quite right but it is pretty clear that they are getting back on the right track. That being said they absolutely need to start winning some games and inconsistent play from the likes of Bargnani (who was scorching early in the game but invisble afterwards) and Delfino (not exactly making a strong case lately for another contract) isn't helping to right the ship.
Now that the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is over, the focus comes back to the Raps…well at least until Thursday.
This two-day break comes at a perfect time for the Dinos. CB4 will have a day to rest and a day to practice and the rest of the guys could probably use a day to get away from it all.
Up next, the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit has had their way with Toronto this year and it will take a better finishing effort than that against Denver to grab a W.
Toronto has had issues in the clutch all season and with the 76ers now sitting with the Raps in sixth, the Dinos need to start finishing off some of these games.
Unfortunately, with only Chris Bosh proving an effective fourth quarter weapon recently, Sam Mitchell is going to need to find someone else to step up and help CB4 out.
Back in the day, that someone often was Dell Curry...
...but unfortunately neither he or his son Stephen are currently on this squad.