The 54–20 Raptors have 8 games left to play. The franchise record for wins is 56, set 2 years ago. It’s safe to say a new record will be set this season. Let’s go for 60!
Conventional wisdom was that the Raps would take a step back this season with the departures of veterans Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson. Instead, the youngsters stepped up and became the best bench in the league.
Over the last few games, the Raptors have made a habit of slacking off for 3 quarters then turning it on to win in the 4th quarter. This approach finally caught up to them against the Clippers as they lost just their 7th home game all season a couple of days ago. Hopefully that results in a more serious effort against a Denver team that desperately needs all the wins it can get. DeMar DeRozan had a particularly bad game and should be motivated to bounce back strong.
The Raps are a comfortable 3 games ahead of the Boston Celtics for the East’s #1 seed. Meanwhile, the 40 – 34 Nuggets come in 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West with the Clippers hot on their heels just a half-game back.
Paul Millsap missed a chunk of the season but he’s back for Denver. He puts the moves on Ibaka a couple times, Ibaka gets him back with a big block. DeRozan comes out sharp as expected, finding teammates for 4 assists before adding 6 points of his own.
An oafish Plumlee knocks Pascal Siakam over and lands on his leg. Siakam stays down for a while but walks it off and stays in the game.
CJ Miles has a rough start. Missed shots, a turnover and a couple of bad fouls.
Delon Wright makes a halfcourt heave at the buzzer to put the Raps up!
End of Q1: Raps 25, Nuggets 23
Fred Van Vleet and Nikola Jokic have a little duel, trading three-pointers. Fred draws a charge on Jokic. CJ catches the D off guard and drives for a dunk.
Jakob Poeltl picks up 4 fouls. A couple are suspect, but nevertheless Bebe comes in. His reluctance to go up in traffic botches up a few possessions, and Trey Lyles and Will Barton nail a few threes as Denver takes control.
JV comes in and starts converting inside. Jokic is cooking him on the other end though. This guy is gonna be a problem all night. He finishes the half with 17 points and 10 boards, both game highs.
It’s a sloppy start to the second half. Wilson Chandler gets a dunk off a blown coverage after going scoreless in the first half. JV fouls Millsap on a 3 to give up a 4-point play.
The Raps battle back to take a lead briefly but give it up by the end of the quarter. This Nuggets team sure can shoot the ball.
End of Q3: Nuggets 85, Raps 82
Van Vleet and Siakam lead the comeback! They each take Jokic to the basket from the top of the key. CJ Miles finally hits a 3 to chip in.
Nuggets timeout with 7 minutes to go Raps up 95–92.
The Raps maintain control with a lineup of Lowry-Wright-VanVleet-Siakam-Poeltl. Poeltl puts down a Keon Clark style throw-in dunk over Millsap. Was he hit across the shoulder? Yes. Did they give him a whistle? Of course not!
3 minutes to go. Raps lead 107–99.
Poeltl closes the door on the Nuggets with a short jumper off a Siakam dish and a putback tip-in off a Van Vleet drive.
1 minute left, Raps lead 111–101.
The Nuggets played the foul game and hit a couple of late 3's to make it close.
The Raps have 2 games against Boston and one against Cleveland in their last 7. 5–2 gets them to 60 wins.