The Denver Nuggets led from start to finish defeating the short-handed Toronto Raptors 133-118 on Sunday.
Nikola Jokic led the way for Denver posting a triple-double of 23 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists. Canadian Jamal Murray rode a hot first-half to 22 points, five assists shooting 6-for-10 from three-point range.
R A N G E- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 2, 2020
The Blue Arrow went off in the third! pic.twitter.com/KpOAJUSrsK
OG Anunoby led the way with a career-high 32 points for the Raptors in the loss. The loss is the third straight for the Raptors, the second time that's happened this season.
Here are seven thoughts from the Raptors' 18th loss of the season:
Good start for Denver
Nuggets head coach Mike Malone called his team soft after getting blown out by the LA Clippers on Friday night. His team heard him and responded with a spirited effort to start Sunday's game against the Raptors.
The Nuggets started the game shooting 7-for-7 from 3-point range and finished the first period going 14-for-23 from the field. The Nuggets led by as many as 13 points in the first.
Good response by the Nuggets after being called out by their coach.
Lowry's winning plays
Kyle Lowry makes so many winning plays that don't often get magnified. Here he is - as a guard and the smallest player on the floor - setting a back screen on the biggest player on the floor to free Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a straight-line drive to the hoop.
Lowry averages just 0.4 screen assists per game on the season - nowhere near the leader on the team, but his willingness to always make the right play and lay his body on the line is the reason why he's an All-Star and why the Raptors are working on their fifth straight 50-win season.
The real OG showed up
OG had a solid game against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, one of the few Raptors to perform well in what was a tough loss.
OG puttin' on a show pic.twitter.com/V9pIx5kYYI- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 2, 2020
He packed his strong play and brought it on the road with him, going for a career-high 32 points and seven steals. He became the first Raptor to record at least 30 points and seven steals in the same game and also became the first Raptor to post back-to-back games with at least six steals.
During the Raptors' 15-game win streak OG was solid but wasn't asked to score a ton. Sunday was a positive sign for Raptors fans to see OG step up and score with the team being short-handed.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown
Short-handed and in need of a big game out of their go-to player, Pascal Siakam once again struggled to elevate the team to the next level against elite competition.
Siakam struggled from the field, going just 2-for-13 in the first half and looked frustrated as he allowed the poor shooting to affect his defence. He never recovered.
Siakam finished with 16 points shooting 29% from the field and four turnovers.
NBA.com's Micah Adams pointed out that Siakam has now earned the right to be held to a higher standard becoming an All-Star starter this season. He has to find a way to play his best basketball when the competition level picks up.
Free throw line
Despite giving up a ton of size to the Denver Nuggets, Toronto did a great job of body punching the home team with points in the paint and earning trips to the free throw line for a large part of the game.
The Raptors finished the game with 62 points in the paint and went to the line 29 times. But the majority of those free throws came early in the game when the Raps were attacking the rim. Toronto needed a sustained effort in getting to the rim, it appeared that fatigue set in and they weren't able to put the pressure on the officials to continue to make the calls.
Toronto came into the game averaging 22.2 free throws per game which is good for 20th in the league.
If they can find a way to continue to get to the charity stripe it could pay huge dividends come playoff time, but it has to be a consistent effort for 48 minutes.
No Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka and Nikola Jokic made the Raptors pay. The All-Star centre was efficient and assertive with the ball all night, leading to a team-high 23 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists shooting 73% from the field.
Nikola showing he's QB1 material with Peyton Manning and Drew Lock sitting courtside! pic.twitter.com/ftEq2G2sjL- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 2, 2020
When Jokic is locked in the Nuggets are tough to beat, he showed why he's an All-Star on Sunday.
The Raptors have now lost three straight for the second time this season. They'll continue their five-game road trip in Phoenix on Tuesday against the Suns.
Tip-off is set for 9:00 pm ET and can be seen live on Sportsnet ONE in Canada and Fox Sports Arizona and NBA League Pass in the USA.