The Toronto Raptors eight-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday night in Toronto after a last-second 110-109 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The loss drops the Raptors to 31-24 on the season and 16-13 on their home floor.
It wasn’t the best of starts for the Raptors on Saturday night as the Nuggets found their offence early, but they managed to keep the game close through the first 12 minutes. The second frame was much better for Toronto as Pascal Siakam began to get involved, leading his group to a 57-56 lead at the half. Things remained close in the third as the game looked to be destined for late drama, with the Raptors leading by three heading into the 4th. The Nuggets took a lead in the fourth and found themselves up 110-106 before a clutch three from Fred VanVleet with 20 seconds remaining. After Nikola Jokic surprisingly missed both free throws, the Raptors had a chance to win through a 3-point look from VanVleet and a put back from OG Anunoby. Unfortunately for the Raptors VanVleet missed and Anunoby was blocked by Jokic as time expired, ending the game and giving the Nuggets the dramatic 1-point win.
Siakam was the man yet again for the Raptors in the loss, scoring a season-high 35 points with 10 rebounds and 7 assists. VanVleet had a positive showing with 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists while Barnes had his best game in a while with 17 and 5. Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby scored 11 and 9 points respectively, while it was yet another quiet night for the bench who only combined for 12 points.
Jokic was the predictable offensive leader for the Nuggets on Saturday, finishing with an impressive line of 28 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. He played a near-perfect game other than the late missed free throws, but he was able to make up for it with the game-sealing block. Jeff Green scored 19 points, Aaron Gordon had 13 and Bones Hyland had 11 with some clutch plays down the stretch. The Nuggets had five players involved off the bench with the most impactful performance being 8 points and 4 rebounds from JaMychal Green.
The two things that have been mainstay issues for the Raptors this year came back to bite them on Saturday. The starters have been able to bail them out during the win streak, but poor bench play and poor defensive rebounding reared their ugly head, with the Raptors being outrebounded 50-35 and the bench being outscored 31-12. With the trade deadline in the rear-view mirror they will have to solve these problems internally, as they’re holding this team back from being amongst the best in the conference.
The positive news is that even with the aforementioned issues, the Raptors were right in this game until the end and got a great look from VanVleet to win it. The young core of this team has proven itself as special, and they’re only going to continue to improve.
Toronto remains in sixth in the East despite the loss, although they are now tied with the 7th place Celtics. The Raptors have a 6-game cushion on 11th place, meaning that at the very least a play-in tournament berth should be the expectation down the stretch.
Both teams are back in action on Monday as the Raptors look to start a new winning streak in New Orleans against the Pelicans while the Nuggets host the Orlando Magic.
Siakam – 35 PTS 10 REB 7 AST
VanVleet – 25 PTS 5 REB 5 AST
Barnes – 17 PTS 5 REB 1 AST
Jokic – 28 PTS 15 REB 6 AST
Je. Green – 19 PTS 5 REB 5 AST
Gordon – 13 PTS 6 REB 2 AST