“I’ve said to a lot of people in Denver, this year should not be over-evaluated. I call it the knuckleball year,” Karl said before the game. “You don’t know what’s going to be thrown your way, and you don’t know which way it’s going to go. You’ve just got to keep coaching, keep plugging and keep working, and hopefully good things happen.”
That’s this season summed up as well as it can be. Blow-out a contender one night, and get blown out by a basement winnow the next.
This time, it was the Raptors’ turn to do the damage and sink a dagger through the heart of Denver’s playoff aspirations.
And it was the night that marked the imminent return of Andrea Bargnani – who not only reached his 6000th point as a Toronto Raptor; but also scored a team-high 26 points.
Il Mago started the game on fire – scoring the game’s first seven points.
He ended off the game all the same – draining a ridiculously tough contested three-point bomb over Al Harrington.
Bargnani became the fourth Raptor to reach the 6000 plateau after Vince, CB4, and Mo’ Pete.
“It was fun out there tonight,” said Bargnani after the win. “I had so many open threes and I hit a couple of tough ones too.”
The other Toronto star DeMar DeRozan (who won last week’s player of the week honors) also chipped in with 17 points - albeit on 6-of-20 shooting.
Jose Calderon got dunked on pretty badly by Javale McGee – but still managed to record his 10th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 assists.
Gary Forbes – who’s making a strong case to be re-signed next season – also pitched in with a double-double with 11 points and an impressive 10 rebounds.
The Raptors as a whole were clutch in the fourth, and they held the Nuggets to just 3-of-22 shooting in the final frame.
Relief was provided in the shape of some key minutes from 10-day contracts Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson who each played 13 minutes. It may not seem like a lot; but it was significant enough to provide Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza some well-deserved rest in the absence of Jerryd Bayless and James Johnson.
“A guy like Alan could come in and force things and try to show what he can do; a guy like Ben could come in and try to show what he could do. They didn’t do that. They played within themselves and that was really important,” said Casey.
Next up: Heat @ Raptors on Friday.