After giving up 38 points in the second quarter, the Toronto Raptors managed to claw back into the game and beat the Denver Nuggets to start their five-game road trip.
Battling through a tough night
After playing the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors on back-to-back nights on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Raptors came into Friday's game fatigued to say the least. Playing against the Nuggets in high altitude conditions, the Raptors came out of the gate sluggish and lackadaisical. After holding the Nuggets to 19 points in the first quarter, the Raptors coughed up 38 points in the second.
The interior defense and off-ball defense were the biggest problems as the Raptors were constantly getting face-cutted and were allowing deep penetration to the basket constantly to capable players. This defensive effort translated offensively at the end of the second quarter, as the Raptors turned over the ball numerous times allowing the Nuggets to stretch their lead to 5 points heading into halftime. It wasn't until the fourth quarter where the Raptors finally locked in.
Starting the fourth quarter resting DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors decided to rely on their bench that had been struggling all night long. This gamble paid off immensely as their defense intensity raised to a high level and the Raptors hit some big time shots to stay close. Terrence Ross gave the Raptors a much-needed boost as he finished the game with 16 points and the go-ahead shot in the overtime period. This wasn't a typical game for the Raptors.
Fighting through factors like fatigue, foul trouble, missed free throws, and lackadaisical play, the Raptors were able to garner enough will power to grind out defensive stops and make the right plays at the right time. This was personified with Jonas Valanciunas' performance in the fourth quarter. Struggling all night, Valanciunas found himself having to fight on every play. Down the stretch to keep the Raptors in it, Valanciunas tipped out three offensive rebounds, which kept possession in the hands of the Raptors at a most crucial time.
Mudiay's output not enough
Nuggets guard Emmaunel Mudiay had a tremendous performance Friday night, as he finished the game with 25 points and 9 assists on 56 percent shooting from the field. Mudiay kept the Raptors' defense on their toes all game dazzling them with his versatile game. Running the pick and roll to perfection, Mudiay was able to find the roll man all night. He also used his superb athletic ability to get to the rim at will.
The Nuggets as a whole had a great first half and seemed to be taking advantage of a fatigued Raptors team early on. However, missed defensive assignments and their inability to close out a tight game ultimately cost them as some late game turnovers and missed opportunities hindered them. On a positive note, the Nuggets had great games from some of their better players like Wilson Chandler (25 points, 10 rebounds), Danilo Gallinari (21 points, 9 rebounds), and Nikola Jokic (8 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists).
Three Game Outlook
Toronto Raptors: at the Golden 1 Center to play the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, California, Sunday night; at the Staples Center to the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, California, Monday; at the Toyota Center to play the Houston Rockets in Houston, Texas, Wednesday.
Denver Nuggets: at home (Pepsi Center) to play the Utah Jazz, Sunday; at home to play the Chicago Bulls, Tuesday; at the Vivint Smart Home Arena to play the Utah Jazz again in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday
-Lucas Nogeuira was inactive for personal reasons
-First overtime game for the Raptors this season
-Will Barton was inactive due to an ankle injury
-Mike Miller was inactive due to personal reasons
-Gary Harris was inactive due to an injured foot
-The Raptors shot only 61 percent from the free throw line, their worst performance of the season
-The Nuggets shot 4/25 from three-point range; tied for their worst performance of the season