Toronto – "They come to you in waves, people," Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said of the Toronto raptors following Monday's 106-103 Raptors loss.
A complement, to be sure, at a night where the raptors played a forgetable game by three quarters before mounting a late comeback – just to fall through a frustrating finish.
Hey, they can not all be heat.
Monday was focused on being a good day for the raptors. As the team strengthened its claim as the NBA's best by 25 games, carrying a nine-game win streak and 20-4 record in its tilt against the nuggets, two key pieces to be the best start in Franchise History, Kawhi Leonard and Head Coach Nick Nurse, are aware of their achievements.
Nursing – in his first month as an NBA bank host, no less-earned coach of the month honors. "I feel like I've given a Lamborghini," Neree said shortly before top-off, downplaying his own contributions. He has done a great job of using the many moving parts on his roster and coaching the wraps through everything from double-digit combboks, extracting wins, winning strikes, locking strikes, and everything in between, and – Monday's result apart The team also positioned as he could have hoped for the early days.
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As Leonard, he was absolutely advertised, and he began to save his game as he gets more comfortable playing in Ners's systems and sets the last time's injury behind him. Leonard was named player of the week in the east after arriving just shy of 30 points per game over the last seven days, along with nine revelands, highlighted by his 37-point herois in the raptors' unsettling win against the Golden State Warriors last Friday.
Leonard was stunned again on Monday, leading the raptors with 27 points and nailing, which could have been the game winner with seven seconds reminded of a weird, wild finish at the ScotiaBank Arena. (More on that at a moment.)
Of course, the nuggets are no sloths themselves. Denver holds the first place in the West and heading on Monday with a player of his weekly veteran Paul Miller who averaged 21.5 points, 10 boards and three assists over the last week as Denver walked 2-0, featuring a win Against Portland and a 32-point exhaust against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lockers. (Remember when Millsap, pleasing to the raptors in trade rumors, is considered the potential answer to unloading the potential raptors, the long-coveted "third star" to accompany Lowry and Dymran Droson? Certainly makes that seem like a eternity back.)
In a night where Canadian breakout guard Jamal Murray entered the building with the spotlight on him, the biggest star of Nuggets was undoubtedly the center of Nikola Jokik. The 23-year-old seven-footer anodized game and stellar out of the center of the center – he has 10 assists at half – was on full display. Jokik fixed a nuggets Surge to the end of the second quarter, his passing and quick-fire decision-making infectious as Denver sealed the ball around and caught the raptors off guard, taking a 12-point lead in cement.
"I was kind of hoping you could ruin it [Jokic] With a little more pressure, "Ners said after the game." He just had to deal with it. We worked hard on him, we tried to put him under the ball several years ago, but it did not do it. "
Jokic's poise down the stretch, coupled with his unrelated skill-set left no questions as to what he's so watched. And it all starts with his ability to find the teammates.
"He is a great passer-by, he makes the game so much easier for everyone around him," said Nuggets Center Mason Plumele, which was on the recession of more than one big-to-great alley. "He does not see what his line was like tonight, but I think he got a lot of assists."
Fifteen, to be accurate, to go along with a team-high 23 points and 11 revelands, and some clutch makes the stretch down.
Meanwhile, Leonard stepped up for the raptors. "With a player like that," said Gary Harris, one of the best wing defender NBA and the Nuggets leader, who left Monday's game with a hips injury, "he's so talented offensive that you're going to stop Him. "
It was true, and Leonard could not be stopped, scoring 16 in the first half. The same can not be said of his teammates. Kyle Lowry, for example, was scoreless in the opening half and finished the game with just five points on 1 of 7 shooting – but had lead 11 assists. Sergei Ibaka made some key baskets in the second half, and Pascal Cyiakam chipped in 14 points, but the secondary scoring was hard for the wraps. A 26-percent three-point shooting night for Toronto did not help its cause, or.
And then it was that frenzied to finish.
It started with a shock jumper from Leonard, driving right and pulling up for an elbow jumper to put the raptors up to 55 seconds remaining. Jokik responded with a flutter on the next hold. Danny Green got a couple of chances to re-win the lead – the first a forced jumper, the second, after a short loose-ball scramble, a pure look of deep.
Jokik grabbed the rebound and the Nuggets split their ensuing free throws, setting the stage for a final Toronto possession with a chance to win the game. With 12 seconds on the clock, the raptors incorporated the ball and Leonard bound to the basket, turned, jump, and fed over two defenders for a jumper. Swish. Tie game.
But with seven seconds remaining, Denver still has a chance to steal a win. That's when the foul call happened. Once the ball was inbound, Ibaka was just called for a foul on Jokik, binding the big man as he tried to run off a screen. It sent the nuggets to the free-throw line and, as the shotgun came off the ball, Denver still had possession.
A crucial turning point, and a surprising call given the balance of the possession, but not just an unexpected one if you saw Ibaka holding onto Jokic before the game started even.
As they waited for the ball to be inbound, Jokic – twice – dramatically shoved Ibaka's arms off him and lifting his hands in the air while looking at the references to pay attention. They only did that, and when the ball was placed in Ibuki's handy coverage of Jokik got the Raptors Center called for the foul. Jokic nailed his free throw, and when the Nuggets entered the ball once more to their bigger man and he was folded, this time incidentally, he calmly sands both free to fill the win.
After the game nurse, he has to give the foul in-question a second look before commenting on it. Ibaka, and Laura, made quick exits after the game and did not speak to the media.
"It was the right call," said Plumele. "If you're going to call it the other three quarters, you're Gata calling it in the fourth, you have to be able to do it To run on offense, and if there is no freedom of movement, where do you go?
"And [Ibaka] Knowing better. "
It was the kind of play you see all the time, a veteran player using whatever option is at his disposal to slow the opponent down. Unfortunately, the raptors, this time the hammer came down from the officials who were front and center in a heated and cheaper finish.
So, a tough loss for the raptors, even if they fought back in a game that was on the verge of getting out of hand early.
The game's monk represents the first game in which the underside of the raptors will be toughest stretch so far this time. After Denver, the rapporteurs go to the Philadelphia 76ers, and then after a fight against the Brooklyn network on Friday, the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, Warriors will make this time with Steph Carey waiting in the lineup – Portalnd Trail Blazers, The nuggets once more in Denver, and then they will return home for a game against the Indian packers. Brooklyn along, the teams have a combined 103-58 record.
It does not get easier from here for the raptors. Up to the next one.