Game 3 in the Books!
Nuggets Lose 105-102
For the third time in as many games, Denver Nuggets’ opponents have given the fans what they’ve come to see. Superstars and All-Stars alike have torched Denver. Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are averaging 37.25 points per game vs. the Nuggets after three games.
Tonight in Toronto it was the dynamic backcourt duo which sent the Nuggets to their second consecutive loss in painful fashion. Tonight, as on Saturday vs. the Blazers, the Nuggets held fourth-quarter leads late only to see them slip away in the final possessions.
With extreme competence and confidence, Kyle Lowry dominated the end of the game. The Raptors executed offense to get favorable matchups for Lowry late and he knew what to do. On multiple late possessions, Lowry was able to drive to the lane vs. mismatched Nuggets for right-handed layups.
On the other end of the floor, the Nuggets lacked the same execution, especially late. A third-quarter ankle injury to Will Barton removed the Nuggets’ best creator for the night and the offense suffered. The last chance at a set play for the Nuggets saw Emmanuel Mudiay launch a long three after no play developed off of the inbounds pass.
While Lowry sealed the deal down the stretch, DeMar DeRozan beat the Nuggets consistently to his spots. Deft foot and fake work had DeRozan in the middle of the paint with enough room to shoot and score right over Nuggets defenders.
In the second half, the Nuggets outscored Toronto by 10 points led by Emmanuel Mudiay who drove to the basket time after time. While Mudiay struggled mightily to get the shots to drop at first, by the fourth quarter he had found the right touch to score.
Jusuf Nurkic’s night swung wildly from amazing plays to head-scratching errors. The Bosnian Beast finished with 13 points and 18 rebounds for an impressive stat line. Positively, he blocked two DeRozan shots and even shot him the Nurk Smirk. Negatively, he rushed some shots, lost balls with poor hands and just plain ran out of gas at the end. Coach Mike Malone did reward Nurkic with the opportunity to close the game after riding the bench for the final quarter the first two games.
A glaring problem for the Nuggets is their offensive execution at the end of a game. Players who can get their own shot and score in the final minutes are valuable commodities in the NBA. The Raptors had two such players on the floor, while Denver didn’t show any tonight. Danilo Gallinari has faithfully served that role in the past but was largely disengaged tonight. If the Nuggets are to elevate themselves to a playoff level team, closing games must become a strength rather than a liability.
Up Next: The Nuggets head to Minnesota to face the Timberwolves on Thursday, November 3rd. Tipoff is at 6:00pm.