Game Notes: Raptors at Nuggets
Denver rolls over Toronto for sixth straight win.
by Sulaiman Folarin / @sulaiman4real
When a team scores just 12 points scored in the first quarter of an NBA game, the question needs to be asked: What went wrong?
The Toronto Raptors’ visit to the Pepsi Center would be remembered not for the final score, 96-81—a win for the Denver Nuggets—or the small tussle between Al Harrington and Linas Kleiza, but rather the Raptors’ abysmal 12-point first quarter.
That was a quarter head coach Dwayne Casey would like to forget, and quickly too. With about 3:26 left in the first quarter, the Raptors were stuck on 2 points for the game.
“We had some good looks, but they weren’t going in,” Casey said. “Our guys need to believe we can win. Right now it’s us against the world.”
Shots were not falling, as Toronto finished the quarter shooting 5-21. The Raptors matched the Milwaukee Bucks, who also scored 12 points to start the quarter against the Nuggets on January 2 and lost.
“In the first half every shot they threw up seemed to go in. It definitely curbs your spirit a little bit and we dug ourselves into another hole,” DeMar DeRozan said.
The overall look of the quarter was actually a lot worse for Toronto until Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa came off the and helped tie that record for a low scoring quarter; who knows what would have happened if Casey kept the two on the bench.
To be fair to the Raptors, they did not have the towering presence of center Andrea Bargnani. His 23.5 ppg was sorely missed during their Friday night performance.
“We just have to step up; everyone has to step up. Tonight a lot of guys weren’t making easy shots,” DeRozan said. “We just have to believe that when Andrea is not out there, that we can do it.”
For the Nuggets, Rudy Fernandez was a great spark off the bench and matched Danilo Gallinari’s first half performance as they both scored 13 points. Fernandez finished the game with a game-high and season-high 23 points and Gallinari followed with 21 for the game.
“It was a pretty impressive defensive [game]. I never thought offensively we really got very sharp,” George Karl said.
Nuggets also had a great performance from Nene, who dropped 20 points and picked up 10 rebounds.
The Raptors attempted to make it a game in the second half; it’s the NBA, everyone makes a run. Forward James Johnson scored 12 of his 16 points in the third in their quest to keep it close. But Fernandez’s 5-7 from three-point land was a key factor in Denver keeping a double-digit lead for a long stretch.
With 9:37 left in the game though, Barbosa’s three-point jump shot—part of a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter for Toronto—cut the Nuggets’ lead down to 6 points. But back-to-back three-point jumpers from Gallinari and Fernandez extended the lead back up to double digits.
“Denver is well coached and is one of the most talented teams we’ve played this year,” Casey added.
With the win Friday night, the Nuggets have won 12 games in a month; the last time they reached that feat was January 2010. That season, head coach George Karl battled with cancer and then-assistant Adrian Dantley coached the team.
Chauncey Billups was still on the Nuggets and on Sunday the Denver native will be visiting with his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers.
Nuggets’ Harrington and Kleiza in a last second tussle
With 30.9 seconds left in a game and the Nuggets leading by 15 points, Kleiza and Al Harrington had a little tussle as both players walked toward the Nuggets’ end of the court. The reaction on Harrington’s face made it clear that the conversation was heading south. Then Harrington pushed Kleiza.
“What happens on the court stays on the court,” says Kleiza. The Raptors forward chose not want to elaborate.
“Guys think it’s funny because you know you can do all that like the referees out there save him, but I don’t play game like that,” Harrington said about the tussle. “I apologized. Rudy was the only way I could get to him so I picked Rudy up and kind of tossed him.”
The referee called a foul on DeRozan and three technical fouls on Nene, Harrington and Kleiza, respectively. The entire tussle took about four minutes to sort out.