The defensive intensity from Sunday night was nowhere to be found on Monday, as the Raptors (20-50) allowed 72 first half points and had allowed 100 before the end of the third quarter en route to a 123-90 blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Not much to choose from here, but how about Alexis Ajinca’s garbage time contributions? The Frenchman fell one rebound shy of a double-double, accumulating 11 points and nine rebounds over 16 minutes. In doing so, he was the team’s third leading scorer and tied with Reggie Evans for the team lead in boards.
Just about everything else. The Nuggets held an edge in shooting (47.8% to 40.2% from the floor), rebounding (52-41), assists (31-20), free throw attempts (37-18), turnovers (23 from the Raps to just 16 from Denver) and, most significantly, fast break points (28-8).
For all the talk of Toronto coming in on a back-to-back and struggling to adjust to the thin Mile High air, how about we just call a spade a spade? The 20-win Raptors lost on the road to a team that runs 10 or 11-deep, sits right in the thick of things in the West and appears revitalized with newfound depth and a group of players they feel they can win with … While Ty Lawson had an exceptional game running the point for Denver and was simply too explosive for Toronto, the Raptors’ point guard trio underwhelmed. Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa and Jerryd Bayless combined for 16 assists (all by Calderon and Bayless), but also shot an abysmal 6-25 from the floor and committed 10 turnovers … That said, Bayless did have his moments on Monday night, collecting nine assists and going 5-6 from the charity stripe … Sometime in the past week or two, Ed Davis ran head-first into the rookie wall … Am I missing something with Amir Johnson? I get that he’s held to 15 minutes as a precautionary measure against Washington in what was his first game back from the ankle sprain, but then he shows no ill effects through 22 minutes against OKC and even registers the game-winner, only to go back to 10 minutes against Denver? It’s possible that he had a flare-up, but why is no attending media member asking about his status? … Please forgive the cheap shot, Julian Wright, but how can anyone in this league be so invisible when on court as to register absolutely no stats (well, except a +6) in over 10 minutes of play? And in the mix with a garbage time line-up nonetheless? … “Keep an eye on” fallout: 1) Hard to zone in on one Nuggets player when seven guys score in double digits (Danilo Galinari was one point off from making it eight); 2) Though he quieted down somewhat for the remainder of the game, Lawson scored at will in the first quarter, tallying 17 of his 23 points in the opening frame. He also added eight assists and just thoroughly outpaced the fatigued Raptors.
The Raptors don’t get much of a reprieve with a visit to Phoenix to face the run-and-gun Suns coming on Wednesday (10:00pm, TSN).
Keep an eye on:
1) … Reggie Evans vs. Marcin Gortat. Gortat has been a major contributor off the bench for Phoenix since coming over from Orlando (food for thought: is he a “Sixth Man of the Year” candidate?) and was a difference-maker in the Suns’ February visit to Toronto, scoring 17 points on 7-9 shooting and adding 11 rebounds. Of course, that was a Raptors squad that was still without Evans.
2) … Barbosa’s reception. The Brazilian Blur was a fan favourite in Phoenix and should enjoy a nice moment once he’s announced coming into the game off the bench. Hopefully he’s good and motivated, as the Raptors will need help from the point guard position.
The Pick: Suns 109, Raptors 95 (47-17 on the season)