How do you follow up a big win over one of the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road? By losing to the Denver Nuggets by over 30 the very next night! The HQ breaks down last night's fiasco...
It would be pretty easy to sum up last night's 123 to 90 devastation at the hands of the Denver Nuggets as "just one of those nights."
It would also be easy to use the words of my good friend Andrew Lacas, better known as "The Big Chill," who probably would have simply recapped this one as D-I-S-GRACEFUL.
For in Denver's stomping of the Dinos last night, both would be apt; on one hand nothing was working, on the other, no work was being done.
Toronto's brief two-game winning streak was a thing of the past around the 6:24 mark of the first quarter as the Nuggets went on a 13 to 2 run and never looked back. It was such an utter crushing that at some points it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that Toronto could end up losing by 50, and a quick look at the box score tells you everything you need to know.
-7 players scoring in double figures (Danilo Gallinari was a point away from being the eighth)
-A 60 to 30 advantage in terms of points in the paint
-A 52 to 41 rebounding discrepancy in their favour, as well as 13 offensive boards to Toronto's eight
-31 assists on 43 made field goals
-A 37 to 18 lead in terms of free-throw attempts
-And a 28 to 8 advantage in fast-break points
It doesn't get much more dominant than that.
So what happened?
Was this loss simply a product of a fatigued Raptors' team coming off a very hard-fought win the previous night?
Was it the mile-high altitude?
A culmination of the above with a tough match-up mixed in?
I'd say it was all of the above, but it was also a product of some excellent coaching from George Karl, who had his Nuggets playing like an elite NCAA club.
I don't mean in terms of talent, as of the two teams playing last night, it was the Dinos who looked like they belonged in Division I considering how over-matched they were. No, I simply mean in terms of strategy. The Nuggs used the tried and tested college approach of surrounding an excellent penetrating guard with a bevy of deadly shooters, and thus when the opposing team collapsed to defend against said penetration, the perimeter shooters bombed away.
And that's indeed what went down.
The Raps simply could not stay in front of Ty Lawson and when they looked to get in front of him, the former Tar Heel simply found open wings like Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, who made Toronto pay by knocking down long-range shots.
Interestingly, if you felt like punishing yourself enough to watch this one, it seemed like Denver bombed away all night from the perimeter. However the truth is that Denver actually shot a worse percentage from long-range than the Raps (30% versus Toronto's 33%.) What skewed things was that of the Nuggets' seven made 3's on the night, Denver made six of those in their first 10 attempts.
That broke things open early, and off to the races Denver went.
Jay Triano noted as much at half time as the game plan WAS to stop Lawson's penetration, and force him to be shooter. However when Lawson knocked down two of his three long-range shots early, and a bevy of other looks, that plan quickly fell by the wayside and TO was forced to guard him a lot closer.
And the speedy PG simply blew right by the Raps and completely tore Toronto's D to shreds.
It was a well-executed plan and watching Denver for the first time since Melo's departure, you can easily see why the team's been so successful. George Karl has implemented a great system that emphasizes Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson's speed at the 1 to open things up for the team's deadly 3-point attack.
Yet it's not simply a one-dimensional view as guys like Nene can do serious damage inside, and others like Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen provide some much needed shot-blocking and defense. Perhaps they don't have as much star power minus Melo, but this club looks like much more of a "team" at present, and is a club that I'd hate to face in the Western Conference playoffs.
As for the Raps, well, let's just move on from this one shall we?
There weren't many positives to take from the match as the entire team looked gassed and guys like Leandro Barbosa (2 of 11), DeMar DeRozan (6 of 13), Jerryd Bayless (0 for 6 with a dumb technical foul) and Jose Calderon (5 turnovers to 7 assists) were particularly awful. It was indeed one of those nights however it was admittedly discouraging to see the team play with such little fight, especially in the wake of their performance the night before.
But in some ways it was no surprise as once those Denver 3's started dropping, you could see how discouraged the Raps got and you knew it was going to be a long night.
The upside of course is as the losses keep piling up, so do the team's lottery chances so perhaps this L puts the team in a tailspin that they fail to recover from, propelling them to a bottom 3 record in the league.
However at this point I think it's safe to say getting to a "bottom 3" spot will be incredibly tough considering how bad teams like Cleveland and Minnesota have been.
The Raps might have lost by 33 points yesterday evening, but the Sacramento Kings one upped them.
They lost by 40 to Chicago.