Western conference leaders Denver Nuggets edges out their Eastern counterparts Toronto Raptors 95-86 at the Pepsi Center, cementing their third win in a row.
The Raptors headed into the match without several key players – Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and last year’s Sixth Man of the Year nominee Fred Van Vleet. They had only nine rotational players, and the center position was a key issue with only Serge Ibaka and Greg Monroe facing Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. The Raptors even called up Chris Boucher from the D-league to fill the void. The weaker defense enabled the Nuggets to have an edge as the Raptors were left exposed in the paint and unable to secure a win.
Kawhi Leonard’s introduction changed the game to Raptors’ favour with cleaner shots and more explosive drives to the basket. However, the hot-hands of Jamal Murray dropped 15 points in the last quarter against the Raptors, after contributing just four points until that point.
Leonard finished with a game high of 29 points,14 rebounds, and four assists. The rest of the Raptors were unable to match up as seen in shooting guard Danny Green’s poor shooting performance. Green only put up seven points, and making only one three out of his four attempts from beyond the arc. In all, the Raptors banged-up bench only contributed 15 points and opposed to Nugget’s 25 points.
Jokic finished with a soaring 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists. The previous time these two teams met in December at Toronto, Jokic secured a triple-double with 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said, “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s our franchise player.”
Nuggets forward Juan Hernangomez struggled all night and posted just two points from free throws, and missing all five of his field goal attempts.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse voiced his unhappiness on the officiating against Leonard after the game.
“Tonight was a very severe case of a guy who was playing great, taking it to the rim and just getting absolutely held, grabbed, poked, slapped, hit and everything,” Nurse rebuked. “They refused to call any of it. It’s unbelievable to me. It’s ridiculous. The guy is one of the best players in the league, and he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that, and they just turn their head and go the other way. It’s been going on all year.”
The Raptors face the Indiana Pacers next while the Nuggets take on Dallas Mavericks.Leave a comment