After a subpar performance against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, the Toronto Raptors’ bench regrouped. The second unit that has been so solid all season vowed to shake off the ugly loss.
Tuesday, against Denver Nuggets team hungry for a playoff spot, Toronto’s bench was back on track.
Fred VanVleet scored 15 points, while Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam had 12 apiece and the Raptors’ bench secured a 114-110 victory over the Nuggets with a solid fourth-quarter performance.
East-leading Toronto defeats Denver 114-110, Fred VanVleet 15 points. 0:42
” It’s mainly just all of us boosting each other,” said Poeltl, who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth, despite playing with four fouls. “It’s like ‘Don’t forget, we know we’re better than that.
Seven Raptors scored in double figures. DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points each, while Serge Ibaka finished with 13, and Kyle Lowry– the only starter who played significant fourth-quarter minutes– had 11.
The Raptors (55-20), who played their final game against a Western Conference opponent, are one win away from tying their franchise season record for wins set in 2015-16.
“We dropped a couple in the last couple games. It was just one of those signature games where we just go out there and kind of close the game out.”
Nikola Jokic had 29 points to top the Nuggets (40-35), who began the night in ninth in the West, one spot out of a playoff berth. Paul Millsap added 20 while Canadian Jamal Murray finished with 15.
It was a grind-it-out game that saw neither team lead by more than six points through the first three quarters. The Nuggets, who ‘d been thumped 123-104 the previous night in Philadelphia, had an 85-82 advantage with one quarter to play.
Bench bounces back.
The Raptors’ bench went to work in the fourth, and when VanVleet drained a three in front of the Nuggets’ bench, it gave Toronto a 103-96 lead and brought the Air Canada Centre crowd to its feet.
” They had a great bounce back, the intensity they played with, it was a playoff atmosphere, a playoff game for both of us and I just liked the way they came in, especially in the second half,” said coach Dwane Casey. “I thought they came in and really set the tone on how we were going to play in the fourth quarter.”.
Poeltl muscled past Millsap for a highlight-reel dunk with three minutes to play, two of eight straight points for the Austrian youngster. The Nuggets would come within three points with 11 seconds to play, but the Raptors held on for the win.
” Give their guys credit, their bench was fantastic,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “They’re one of the better benches in the NBA and they showcased it again tonight.”.
After reeling off an 11-game win streak, the Raptors went into Tuesday’s game having won just two of their previous five.
Lowry had three threes in an otherwise pedestrian first quarter that saw the Raptors race out to a six-point lead but fail to maintain it. When he tossed up a 48-foot buzzer-beater to sent the Raptors into the second with a 25-23 lead, Delon Wright put a punctuation mark on the quarter.
A three-pointer from Canadian Trey Lyles capped a Denver 10-0 run in the second that put the Nuggets up by eight. The Raptors chipped away at the game and the deficit was tied at 58-58 at halftime.
Millsap led the way with 12 points in a third quarter that saw five lead changes.
The Raptors, who have seven games left in the regular season, don’t play again until Saturday in Boston. They’re at Cleveland on Tuesday before returning home to host Boston on April 4.
” It’s mainly just all of us boosting each other,” said Poeltl, who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth, despite playing with four fouls. Stay with it, keep working, just be better,” VanVleet said on their post-Clippers talk. “We dropped a couple in the last couple games. We just wanted to get back out there and have fun. It was just one of those signature games where we just go out there and kind of close the game out.”
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