With 13 games remaining in the regular season, there was a sense of desperation for the squad as they remained in the middle of the pack in the eastern conference. Coming back home, the Raptors made history, scoring 49 points in the first quarter, making it their best quarter in franchise history. It was led by Fred VanVleet, who had 14 points in the frame.
The objective was to create a comfortable pace, as the Raptors are at their best with fast break offence. The Raptors became stagnant during the end of the second quarter and in the third quarter as the Nuggets went on a 28-10 run. The run started with Michael Porter Jr, as he took advantage of the Raptors poor perimeter defense and finished with five three pointers. By the 10:14 mark in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets cut the deficit three points. As VanVleet and OG Anunoby checked back in the game, the Raptors were in full attack mode. Toronto pulled through adversity and defeated the top team in the west, outscoring them 27-18 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
VanVleet was the leading scorer for the Raptors in the win, scoring 36 points on 13/22 shooting. Anunoby continued his hot stretch with 24 points, while shooting 71% in the game. Pascal Siakam is slowly coming back to form, finishing with 12 points and having some clutch plays down the stretch. The rest of the starting lineup was solid including Scottie Barnes, who finished with 18 points and Jakob Poeltl had another double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
After an abysmal first quarter, the Nuggets played relatively well for the rest of the game. The Raptors, like many teams in the L this season, had no answer for MVP candidate Nikola Jokić, finishing with 28 points on 10/13 shooting. Michael Porter Jr. has exposed the Raptors perimeter defense in both meetings, ending with 23 points while going 5/9 on three-point shots on Wednesday.
Originally listed as questionable, Kitchener native Jamal Murray, you’d figure, wasn’t going to miss his chance to play in front of his family and friends. Due to a torn ACL, suffered in early April 2021, Murray was sidelined for quite some time; since then, he has helped the Nuggets climb up to first in the western conference. This was a special night as it was Murray’s first time playing in Scotiabank Arena since 2018. After scoring 24 points against the Raptors in their previous matchup, coach Nurse knew he had to contain Murray’s hot streaks. Murray struggled with his shot, scoring 14 points, shooting 5/18 and committing 5 turnovers.
This was truly a game of runs; the Raptors started with outscoring the Nuggets 49-30 in the first quarter, and the Nuggets created their own 28-10 run to end the third quarter. Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse relied on Anunoby and Poeltl to guard Jokic, throwing a combination of double teams and active paint defense.
This was a crucial win over the Nuggets as the Raptors remain the 9th seed in the eastern conference. Playing their next 6 of 7 games at home, this is an important stretch for the Raptors as only one-two games separate seeds 9-12.
Although it has been a difficult stretch, the last 13 games will determine if Toronto can withstand their challenging schedule and qualify for the play-in tournament.
The Raptors will face the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday March 17th and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, March 19th.
Raptors vs. Nuggets Boxscore click HERE.
Fred VanVleet – 36 PTS 7 AST 8 3PT
O.G. Anunoby – 24 PTS 3 REB 3 AST
Scottie Barnes – 18 PTS 7 REB 5 AST
Nikola Jokic – 28 PTS 8 REB 7 AST
Michael Porter – 23 PTS 6 REB 5 3PT
Aaron Gordon – 18 PTS 1 REB 3 AST