Don’t look now, but the Denver Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference after another huge win. The Nuggets went on the road and took down the Toronto Raptors 106-103 who, prior to the game, were winners of eight games in a row. The Raptors are still the first-place team in the Eastern Conference, but they did not have enough firepower to deal with Denver who has now won six games in a row themselves.
In the span of 48 minutes , there was the loss of Gary Harris who will get an MRI on Tuesday for a groin injury, an insane three-point finish by Nikola Jokic that did not count, and also a controversial call to end the game. All in all, it was another win by Denver and with that I give you the good, bad and ugly.
The Good – Another win to begin Denver’s toughest road trip
The Nuggets made it to six wins in a row after getting through what was presumed to be their toughest stretch of the season thus far.
Denver started their streak with wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Toronto Raptors. They are now in the middle of a five-game road stretch in which they have gotten through the toughest portion with the easier part of the road trip upcoming against the Magic, Hornets, and Hawks before heading back to the Pepsi Center to take on the Memphis Grizzlies.
Denver’s win against the Raptors in Toronto is their best win of the season and was a statement game within itself against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Jokic led the way with a remarkable triple-double of 23 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds. Jamal Murray added 21 points while Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley also had contributions of 15 points apiece.
Denver has gotten it done on both ends of the floor and is showing how improved they are on the defensive side of the ball as they sit at third in the NBA with a defensive rating of 103.5. The Nuggets appear to be a new team. The entire roster all bought-in and their latest win against Toronto showcased just how special this group could be.
The Bad – Turnovers and free throws
As great of a win as it was for Denver, a huge reason that the Raptors were in the game in the first place was because of the Nuggets’ turnover issues. Denver had a magical first half and it looked as if they were going to put the Raptors away. The Nuggets went into the half winning 59-47 over Toronto on the back of Jokic, who was incredible in the first half.
But the Raptors made a push in the second half and a big part of that was because of the Raptors defense and the turnovers that Toronto was forcing. Denver went through a stretch where they could not score the basketball and before you know it, a whole three minutes went off the clock before the Nuggets made a field goal.
In that time, there were multiple turnovers that led to open baskets for Toronto as they inched back into the game slowly, but surely.
Murray led Denver in turnovers as he struggled throughout the game. He did finish with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, but he was a whopping 9-of-21 from the field, 2-of-7 from beyond the arc, and had a game-high seven turnovers. Paul Millsap and Hernangomez also added three each of their own as the turnovers started to pile up.
As a team, Denver finished with 20 turnovers. As if that were not enough, when the Raptors were sending Denver to the free throw line, the Nuggets were failing to capitalizing.
The Raptors were a perfect 12-of-12 from the charity stripe. Denver, on the other hand, went 15-of-24. Denver got to the line with aggressive inside play but did not make them pay.
Moving forward, the Nuggets will have to limit their turnovers knock down their free throws if they want to continue winning. By doing this, Denver will close out teams early and play with a better flow which eliminates long runs by the opposing team.
The Ugly – Gary Harris goes down
Monday night was arguably the Nuggets best win of the season thus far, but it still had Nuggets’ head coach Micheal Malone feeling uneasy.
“The one thing that I feel awful about is Gary Harris,” Malone said. “Definitely keep Gary in our thoughts.”
Denver’s starting shooting guard was just into his second game back since returning from a sore left ankle injury that had him sidelined for two games before suffering yet another injury Monday night.
At the end of the first quarter Harris came down the lane and attempted a layup. On his way down, he landed awkwardly which had him immediately reaching for his groin area. Harris walked it off on the play as he was fouled and it did not initially appear to be too serious of an injury but then he headed into the locker room to be further evaluated shortly after.
After the game, Malone spoke to media about Harris’ injury.
“He’s frustrated with just getting back from an injury and to have that, not be able to come back in tonight,” Malone explained. “We’ll see how severe the injury is and hopefully we can get him back really soon.”
How serious the injury is has not been determined. Harris will get an MRI on Tuesday, but it is notable how quickly Harris was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
The Nuggets are already without Will Barton who has been inactive since the second game of the season. His return is upcoming, but another loss of this magnitude would be a crucial blow to a Denver team that has been clicking.
Luckily the Nuggets have had one of the best second units in all of the NBA and Malone has preached the next-man-up approach. With players such as Torrey Craig, Malik Beasley and Monte Morris on the bench, Denver definitely has players that can step up and fill his role. Let’s just hope not for too long.