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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 22.03.11
Raps dominated in Denver
Triano walks a fine line with youngsters
Everything that needed to go right went wrong, every piece that was required to fall into place went missing.
When a team plays the back end of a back-to-back set, at high altitude no less, mental toughness looms as important as any game plan.
When a team settles for jumpers and eschews any drives to the basket, attempts passes while leaving one’s feet, allows open looks and looks completed disjointed in its defensive rotations, the outcome is predictable.
When reserves are asked to step up in the wake of starters getting extended minutes the night previous and nothing significant is being created, it makes for a long evening.
And as improbable as Sunday’s win in Oklahoma City, Monday’s mauling by the host Nuggets was, in retrospect, expected.
What wasn’t expected was how little resistance the visitors provided, not even a token attempt to apply any pressure when the Raptors had possession and how little intensity was played on defence.
It got so bad that garbage time arrived during the second quarter when head coach Jay Triano looked down his bench and called on seldom-used Julian Wright and Alexis Ajinca as all 12 available players saw the floor.
Perhaps the best of the lot was Amir Johnson, the hero in OKC whose late-game basket provided the margin of victory, a win that snapped Toronto’s franchise-record 14-game road losing streak.
There was some activity in Johnson, but his wonky left ankle finally gave in, a condition that meant Johnson would not return for the second half.
Even if Johnson were available, it would not have made a single difference as the Raptors fell hard in a resounding 123-90 loss.
Ujiri facing former team when Raps visit
And then there’s Ed Davis, whose game began to take off when the Raptors took off for London, England, to play the Nets in a back-to-back set, a stretch that saw Davis reach double digits in scoring in four straight games.
During that period, he also posted two double-doubles.
Whether he has hit the rookie wall, a fate that befalls every first-year player, or whether he’s not getting consistent minutes, Davis’ game has reached a plateau.
Triano has always maintained he wants to reward hard work with minutes, that he wants to see his team, which, to its credit, continues to work hard, rewarded with wins.
For the first time since early December, the Raptors have actually posted back-to-back wins, oddly enough against Washington and OKC, the same two teams that fell victim to Toronto more than three months ago in successive games.
In losses to Charlotte and Detroit, Davis took a combined nine shots from the field.
In a win against the Wizards, Davis barely played 13 minutes and went 1-of-5 from the field.
In Sunday’s triumph of the Thunder, he played the grand total of 11:54, missing all three shots he took, including a short-range attempt OKC centre Kendrick Perkins clearly altered with his sheer presence.
Winning, it has been said, cures all that ails, but there’s only one remedy when it comes to Davis and that’s to give him minutes, whether he deserves them or not.
If he falters, so be it.
The kid has so much upside and how far Davis goes will only be based on how hard he works and how committed he is to putting in the time the rest of this season and into the off-season.
Triano has spoken with Davis and the head coach admits that his rookie has hit the proverbial wall.
“Part of a player’s growth is fighting through this and riding through the tough times when he’s not playing well,” Triano said. “This is a part where he has to get better.
“Part of the development is to bring energy and effort every single night.”
Raptors blown out by Nuggets for 50th loss of season
“We feel we got killed in the trade because we lost a couple of pretty good players,” Ujiri said. “Obviously, Carmelo Anthony. I feel sad for the city of Denver. I feel bad that this was done on my watch. To lose a guy like that. And also Chauncey (Billups). But I think we had to do it.”
Of course Ujiri had to do it because there was no other course of option.
To his credit, he held on, kept George Karl and his staff updated daily, and pulled the trigger that brought back multiple pieces.
Ultimately, like any team, the Nuggets will be judged on how well they do in the playoffs.
One cannot lose sight of the simple fact that Anthony did lead the Nuggets to a berth in the Western final and nearly knocked off the Lakers.
Heading into Monday’s game against his former employer, Ujiri’s Nuggets were 9-4 since the Melo trade, continue to battle for home court in the opening round and are playing good team basketball.
Raptors routed in Denver
It is a number that’s a benchmark for futility, one that speaks to a season lost and a dire need for improvement.
For the Raptors, it represents a status that hasn’t been achieved since the 2005-06 season, a dubious record of which they should be ashamed.
Toronto lost its 50th game of the NBA season when it suffered its annual Mile High City drubbing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, losing 123-90 in a game that was more dreary than the team’s Sunday night win in Oklahoma City was exhilarating.
The surging and re-made Nuggets led 36-23 after the first quarter and 72-44 at halftime; the final two quarters were played simply because they had to be.
“If you’re a step slow in this league, whether it’s inexperience or fatigue from travel and playing on a back-to-back, you get exposed and we did (Monday) night,” said Toronto coach Jay Triano.
It was a confluence of predictable events that caused Toronto to lose its seventh straight game in Denver.
The Raptors were on a back-to-back, having played so well in beating the Thunder on Sunday night. The Nuggets have better talent, more depth, a greater sense of urgency and had been sitting at home waiting for the Raptors since Sunday morning.
It added up to an all-too-familiar scene for Toronto, which hasn’t been competitive in a game in the Pepsi Center in years.
The 27-point margin of defeat was significant, but not in comparison to recent history. In their last four games here, Toronto has been beaten by 27, 18, 39 and 32 — an average of 29 points per game.
Weary Raptors run over by Nuggets
Andrea Bargnani had 20 points for the Raptors, who snapped a franchise-record 14-game road losing streak the night before in Oklahoma City.
With Lawson leading the charge, the Nuggets pushed the pace all night on the fatigued Raptors.
The diminutive point guard scored 17 of his points in the first quarter. He also finished with eight assists before getting the rest of the night off early in the fourth quarter, along with the other starters.
Then again, given Denver's depth, it's hard to tell the starters from the reserves anymore. Nene scored 18 for the Nuggets and Al Harrington led the cast off the bench with 15 points, while fellow reserve Gary Forbes added 14.
Lawson has provided an offensive spark, the team going 14-6 in his starts. He's also averaging nearly five more points and four more assists than when he enters the contest off the bench.
Everything was going the Nuggets' way early, including a buzzer-beater by Danilo Gallinari to end the first half, giving Denver a 72-44 lead.
Nuggets cruise to 33-point win over Raptors
The quickness of Ty Lawson helped make quick work of the weary Toronto Raptors.
Lawson scored 17 of his 23 points in the first quarter and Denver’s smothering defence forced 23 turnovers, allowing the Nuggets to snap a two-game skid with a 123-90 rout of the Raptors on Monday night.
The more the diminutive point guard pushed the ball up the floor, the more exhausted everyone became — even his own teammates, who also laboured to keep pace.
“He’s very fast,” Wilson Chandler said, shaking his head. “It’s hard for me to keep up with him on a fast break, so I know how it is for somebody guarding him.”
With Lawson travelling warp speed, the Nuggets raced out to a 29-point lead in the second quarter and never looked back, beating the Raptors for the seventh straight time at home.
“He was a good leader all night,” Denver coach George Karl said.
He had to be, especially with guards Raymond Felton (left ankle) and Arron Afflalo (left hamstring) sidelined. But the Nuggets hardly missed a beat as seven different players scored in double figures, including J.R. Smith, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as he spelled Lawson.
“J.R. did a great job at playing point guard, came off the bench and had a really great energy,” said Karl, whose team improved to 10-4 since the blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks last month.
The Raptors arrived in the Mile High City after snapping a franchise-record 14-game road losing streak Sunday night in Oklahoma City.
They just didn’t have the same energy, the same pep, against Denver.
"I think our goal is to worry about ourselves," Karl said. "We have to continue what we've been doing. We have been getting better on almost a game-to-game basis. We need to build some confidence, some unity and build some flow offensively and defensively."
None of that seemed to be much of a problem against a leg-weary Raptors squad
Of course, there haven't been many wins in Denver for the Raptors anyway. The Nuggets have won seven consecutive games against Toronto at the Pepsi Center. The Raptors last won a game here in 2003.