One down, three to go.
On Thursday, the Toronto Raptors kicked off a four-game Western Conference road trip with a matchup against the red-hot Denver Nuggets.
It was a close one through three quarters of play, but the Raptors fell apart in the fourth quarter to lose by a final score of 121-111, dropping them to 26-37 on the season.
Michael Porter Jr. led the Nuggets in scoring with 23 points while Nikola Jokic recorded a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double.
For more on the game, some takeaways at the buzzer...
1. The injury report
In addition to Chris Boucher, the Raptors were without Gary Trent Jr., Paul Watson and Fred VanVleet against the Nuggets.
Per The Athletic's Blake Murphy, Boucher and Watson aren't with the Raptors on this road trip, but Trent is. It sounds like VanVleet, meanwhile, will be back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
"I think it's probably day-to-day but I don't expect it to be too long," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of VanVleet before the game.
2. A new starting five ... again
With VanVleet out, Malachi Flynn got the start alongside Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Khem Birch.
It marks the 29th different starting lineup the Raptors have used this season, which is the most in franchise history.
3. What a Joker
Nikola Jokic is out here playing HORSE.
Gotta be our new favorite JOK3R of the season pic.twitter.com/0QPdOKEaH5- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 30, 2021
4. Can't stop, won't stop
What a run this is turning out to be for Anunoby.
Anunoby entered Thursday's game having scored 20 or more points in five straight, making for the longest such streak of his career. (His previous longest streak of 20-point games? Two, done twice this season). He almost extended that streak in the first half alone with 19 points to lead the way for the Raptors.
Anunoby scored those 19 points efficiently, shooting 6-for-12 from the field, 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
OG's confidence, man pic.twitter.com/5W0vbgRyBq- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 30, 2021
He also had three assists in the first half, a couple of which were pretty slick.
A thing of beauty pic.twitter.com/2lbFpOYwE3- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 30, 2021
Anunoby cooled off in the second half but finished with 25 points to keep his streak alive. His play as of late has been a bright spot for the Raptors this season.
5. Khem Birch does it again
Birch was probably the second-best Raptor in this one.
In 31 minutes of play, Birch finished with a career-best 20 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.
He was at his best in the third quarter, when he scored seven of his 20 points to keep the Raptors within striking distance.
Yup, Khem got those pic.twitter.com/qmePoE2KES- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 30, 2021
As pointed out by TSN's Josh Leweberg, Birch has scored 13 or more points eight times in his NBA career, five of which have come with the Raptors.
He's fitting in quite nicely.
6. Over in a flash
This game got out of hand quickly.
It was a back-and-forth affair through three quarters of play, resulting in the Nuggets holding a two-point lead going into the fourth. They quickly stretched that lead to double figures by going on an 11-0 run to open the period, led by Michael Porter Jr.
M3J M3J M3J pic.twitter.com/RrehlZyhNU- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) April 30, 2021
The Nuggets continued to pour it in, holding Toronto scoreless until there was 7:59 remaining in the game, by which point Denver's lead was up 14.
The Nuggets ended up outscoring the Raptors 34-26 in the fourth quarter to make this a comfortable win.
7. Play-In implications
The Raptors (26-37) now have two less wins and three more losses than the Washington Wizards (28-34), who are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors still have a chance of making the Play-In Tournament, but it's not going to get any easier for them here on out, as they have the league's third-hardest remaining schedule.
8. What's next
The Raptors travel to Utah for a matchup with the Jazz on Saturday, May 1.
After that, a trip to Los Angeles. The Raptors will face the Lakers on Sunday, May 2, followed by the Clippers on Tuesday, May 4.
Big stretch coming up for the Raptors. Catch you then.
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