There is very little that can be added to the result of last night’s game in Denver. The Nuggets were lead by Chauncey Billups with 24 points and 14 assists and Carmelo Anthony with 23 points and 6 rebounds. Nene added 19 points and 11 rebounds and Kenyon Martin added 11 points and 4 rebounds. Linus Kleiza and J.R. Smith were able to add 12 and 14 points to the mix. In and of itself, these totals seem to be average game totals and don’t reveal a few things that the Raptors didn’t want exposed.
First, some good things I saw for the Raptors last night, and yes, there were a few. First, Chris Bosh was able to score 24 points and 12 rebounds, though he had 10 rebounds in the first half. Roko Ukic scored 13 and offered a glimmer of hope that this team might have a backup point guard soon and rest Jose Calderon who struggled again on both ends of the floor, but mainly on defense as he was just clearly out hustled all night long as the Nuggets back court ran at will on him scoring many easy lay ups in transition or on penetration from the top of the arc. Joey Graham looked to herald the return of bad Joey again but ended up with 10 points and 5 rebounds. Kris Humphries grabbed 8 rebounds to make up for Jermaine O’Neal who looked lost most of the night and only grabbed 2. Somehow, the Raptors were able to grab 12 offensive boards to the Nuggets 5, yet were unable to convert most of them into buckets as the Nuggets were much quicker to recover inside and we seem unable to hit a 3 foot or shorter shot last night, well, most nights for that matter. After a first half with 8 turnovers, they finished with 10 as well as 6 steals, but we are still unwilling to run the ball and convert those opportunities into layups which has been a problem all year. Did anyone else notice that the Nuggets made their runs when Andrea Bargnani was not guarding Carmelo? A very solid defensive effort by the big man again as he continues to grow in confidence and show the talent he has for the game.
Some of the ugly things I saw before I turned it off and watched Amadeus with my girl friend. Jermaine O’Neal looked awful on defense and very slow. I suspect he is not ready to play at 100% as Jose Calderon isn’t at this point either. Chris Bosh and Jose both have not played well defensively and that continues to be a huge problem for us. Anytime a team can shoot 59% against you, you have serious issues with defense. A team can get hot outside and kill you there as the Nuggets were 54% from outside hitting 13 of 24 shots from downtown, but the Raptors were beaten in the paint again as the Nuggets continued to attack the lane at will. The Nuggets scored 50 points in the paint to the Raptors 28. They scored 27 fast break points to the Raptors 17. As well, the Nuggets score 16 points off of turnovers to the Raptors 8. There is your 40 point loss in a nutshell. The Raptors were out-hustled and out-played and out coached all night long, again. The team looked disillusioned and bewildered all night long and had no answer to any challenge laid before them. I am not sure any of it can be blamed on the elevation as they continued to shoot and at one point early in the game they were around 28% from the field with NO intention of moving the ball inside. Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono are just not able to provide this team with that level of outside scoring, yet they were not willing to go inside as both Andrea Bargnani and Jermaine O’Neal were in foul trouble early, again.
Overall, it was a horrible game to watch and must not have been very much fun to play. With the Jazz up next on Friday and Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur at home where they don’t lose very often, the Raptors will have to work much harder than they did last night. Carlos Boozer is listed as out right now and Andrei Kirilenko is listed as questionable leaving them vulnerable to a solid performance from out front line. Are they willing to step up and play? We shall see.