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Nuggets build big lead, hang on to beat Raptors

By Aaron J. Lopez, Nuggets.com

Posted Dec. 3 2012 23:55PM

After three straight road losses, the Denver Nuggets returned home grumpy.

Coach George Karl said practice Sunday was “chippy” and described his squad as “feisty.”

For the first 42 minutes Monday night, the Nuggets took their frustrations out on the Toronto Raptors and then breathed a sigh of relief at the final buzzer.

Ignited by reserves Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee, the Nuggets built a 19-point lead in the second quarter and then held off a late Toronto rally for a 113-110 victory over the Raptors at Pepsi Center.

Brewer scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half, and McGee added 17 points and five blocked shots to help Denver (9-9) get some momentum before embarking on a five-game road trip that starts Wednesday in Atlanta.

By the time the Nuggets return to Denver, they will have played 17 road games and six home games.

“I think we’re mature enough to understand that positive energy is going to have to happen by playing well,” Karl said. “Positive energy happens when you play with unity and confidence.”

The Nuggets certainly had both for more than three quarters against the Raptors.

Staying active defensively, Denver had 11 steals and led 103-86 after Kenneth Faried scored on a putback with 6:07 remaining.

Led by attacking point guard Kyle Lowry, the Raptors (4-14) responded with an 18-2 run over the next 3 minutes, 49 seconds to cut the deficit to one.

“They were making shots, but we have to stay aggressive,” Brewer said. “I think we kind of backed off a little bit. We have to be aggressive the whole game defensively.”

With momentum on Toronto’s side, Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson hit a big 3-pointer from the right wing to push Denver’s lead back to four with 2:01 left.

Andre Iguodala attacked and I just moved to the open spot,” Lawson said. “I found myself wide open and knocked it down.”

The Nuggets came up with three consecutive defensive stops after Lawson’s jumper and made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch, but still couldn’t exhale until DeMar DeRozan’s 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.

“I think it was a great win,” Karl said. “It’s what we needed. We needed a win. We need to get better at finishing games and we need to get better at playing more minutes of the game with value.”

It marked the fifth time in six games that the Nuggets held a 16-point lead at some point. They are 3-3 during that stretch.

“We don’t want to live like that, especially on the road,” Brewer said. “We have to come out and play two solid halves of basketball the next game.”

The score might not have been close down the stretch had the Nuggets capitalized at the foul line and converted at a higher rate near the rim. Denver went 27-for-43 from the stripe and 29-for-54 on shots in the paint.

“I’m going to fire my free-throw coach and my layup coach,” Karl joked. “The easy shots we missed are amazing. The offense is pretty efficient but it’s not getting statistical reward.”

Despite the late scare, the Nuggets outrebounded Toronto 53-37 and beat the Raptors for the ninth straight time at Pepsi Center and the 15th time in the past 17 meetings overall. They did it with contributions across the board.

Faried (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Kosta Koufos (10 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles, while Lawson finished with 16 points. Iguodala tied his season-high with eight assists.

“Glad we ended that (losing streak),” Lawson said. “Going into the road trip with four losses in a row would’ve been tough. We had to get a win and get our swag back.”

STAR OF THE GAME

Corey Brewer

Points 19, 9-15 FGs, 1-2 3FGs
Rebounds 5, 2 OFF 3 DEF
Assists 0
Steals 4
Blocks 0
GAME LEADERS
Points Kyle Lowry 24, 6-16 FGs
Rebounds Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos 10
Assists Andre Iguodala 8
Steals Brewer 4
Blocks JaVale McGee 5
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried on protecting second-half leads:

"We did get the win but it’s not the second half that you like and it’s not how we play. We can’t scoreboard watch. We just have to play."

KEY MOMENT

Ty Lawson's 3-pointer late in the 4th quarter

With the Raptors making a charge, Lawson took a pass from Andre Iguodala and knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing to give Denver a 108-104 lead with 2:01 remaining. The shot halted an 18-2 Toronto run.

VIDEO RECAP

Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach George Karl

On what Toronto did in the last 6 minutes to control the game:
"[Kyle] Lowry and [Andrea] Bargnani kind of took control of the game in a lot of ways. To dominate and have a ten point lead in an NBA game is pretty impressive stuff. I think it was a great win. It’s what we needed. We needed a win. I think we need to get better at finishing games and we need to get better at playing more minutes of the game with value. I think it happens in NBA basketball, the momentum swings. It happens when two very good players take control. I think it was actually a positive for us to have a close game and have to win it. We made free throws, we made big shots. Ty [Lawson] made a big shot and I thought that challenge was pretty impressive. That team throws in a couple of threes. I am sure we could have defended them better but one was five feet behind the line. The third one, I think, was just their karma. The three point gods are just living in Denver and celebrate every time. Every team it seems like shoots better than the one before. We defended for most of the game pretty well."

On the second unit:
"I think there is more rhythm and confidence going on with the second unit. My problem with the second unit is defense. I think the difference between the first unit and the second unit’s defense is substantial. They are not crazy bad but tonight I thought they defended and they built the pressure up. JaVale [McGee] got some blocks, Corey [Brewer] got some steals, Andre [Iguodala] was orchestrating well, Jordan [Hamilton] came in and gave us some nice stuff. Again, I think balancing out our team and figuring out our rotations and gaining more confidence is where we are in the season."

On how many minutes JaVale [McGee] can play in a row:
"I think JaVale is a seven-minute guy. We think six or seven minutes is the maximum he can play without getting tired. With the momentum of the game, I thought Kosta [Koufos] was playing equal if not better. My choice was Kosta and my choice was to play our veteran players."

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson

On closing out games:
"We definitely need to close out better. This was the third game where we were up 15 to 17 points and let a team come back."

On being surprised by the Toronto comeback:
"A little bit, [Kyle] Lowry got more aggressive by going to the basket, getting fouls and finding open shooters. We just have to be smarter and focus on putting our foot on them when we are up 15 points."

On breaking the three-game losing streak:
"I am glad we ended that one. Going on this road-trip with four losses in a row would have been tough. I am glad we got a win and we are trying to get our swag back."

Nuggets forward Corey Brewer

On letting Raptors back in the game in the second half:
"Our aggressiveness kind of went away. We have to be aggressive for the whole 48 minutes."

On controlling the boards and getting to the rim:
"They played a little zone but we started making shots and they started making shots. It’s the NBA. Teams make runs and they made their run late."

On bench being productive tonight:
"We just tried to come in and bring some energy and get us going up-and-down. Coach [George Karl] wants us to pick up the pace so that’s kind of our job and that’s what we needed to do tonight."

On Nuggets feistiness going into the game tonight:
“We were kind of upset. In two of the last three games, we were up early and ended up losing them late. Tonight I am just glad we held on."

Raptors coach Dwane Casey

On getting behind:
"We dug ourselves too deep of a hole. They are a good, experienced team. We finally decided to play defense the last minutes of the game. I compliment our team for our fight. I loved our fight and our competitive nature. We have to do it for 40 to 45 minutes a game. We can’t expect to shoot ourselves back into the game. We didn’t do all of the little things we need to do. They were the aggressor. Their second team came in and ran up the score."

On Kyle Lowry:
"In the second half Kyle did what we needed. He did a good job finding the open man."

On the altitude:
"True or false the altitude got to us. We just can’t give up 23 offensive rebounds and have 16 turnovers for 23 points."

Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry

On the difference between the two halves:
"The first half was bad for us. We made a commitment in the second half to play defense the whole time and get back. I don’t think in the second half they had too many fast break points. We have to play like we did in the second half, in the first 24 minutes."

On his performance in the first half:
"I was just trying to find a way to get it going. In the second half, my teammates got me open and I was a little bit more aggressive. At the end of the day, I was just trying to find myself and I was playing for our team." On Denver’s offensive rebounding:
"That’s what they do. They are relentless, [Kenneth] Faried is good, [Kosta] Koufos comes in and they have guys that go in there and that’s what they do, is try to get those offensive rebounds. That’s their game and they beat us at that game tonight."

On his play in the second half:
"I was just trying to be aggressive. The last couple of games, I have just been trying to find my teammates and find myself. I realized that I needed to be a little more aggressive for me to play a little bit better."

On the game’s final play:
"It was a play drawn up for me but they double-teamed me and DeMar [DeRozan] got the ball and I tried to set up the screen for him. I thought he was going back to the right to try to get up the sideline but he was right behind me. He still got a clean look. I drew a couple of guys into me, he got a clean look but he just missed it."

POSTGAME NOTES

INDIVIDUAL

• Kenneth Faried scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, marking the 21st double-double of his career (Nuggets 17-4). It is only the ninth time in his career that he has recorded 18+ points and 10+ boards in the same game (Nuggets 7-2).

• Additionally, Faried set a new career high in free throw attempts (11) and tied a career high in free throw makes with eight (previously done 3 times, most recently vs. UTA on 11/9/12).

• JaVale McGee scored 17 points and blocked five shots tonight. It is the 20th game in his career that he has blocked five-or-more shots in one game (first time with Nuggets). It is only the fifth time in his career that he has scored 17+ while doing so.

• McGee also set a career-high for free throw attempts in a single game (16), besting his previous high of 11 on 3/27/11 at GSW as a member of the Washington Wizards.

• Corey Brewer led the Nuggets with 19 points tonight, marking the second time this season that he has led the team in scoring (previous 11/9/12 vs. UTA, 20 points). Brewer led or tied for the team lead in points on four occasions last season.

• Kosta Koufos registered 10 points and 10 rebounds in tonight’s victory. It is the fifth double-double of his career (second this season).

• Jordan Hamilton scored eight points and came down with five rebounds off the bench tonight. In the last two games Hamilton is averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

• Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 24 points, hitting 11-of-11 free throws in the process. It is the first time a player has shot 100% from the charity stripe against the Nuggets (min. 11 attempts) since Corey Maggette hit 12-of-12 on 1/20/10 as a member of Golden State.

TEAM

• The Nuggets beat Toronto 113-100 tonight. Denver has now won nine straight home games over the Raptors and 15 of the last 17 overall.

• Tonight was Denver’s second game with 110+, while it is the fifth game a Nugget opponent has scored 110+.

• The Nuggets starters combined for 61 points tonight, and Denver is now 9-4 when their starters combine for 60+ points. Additionally, Denver’s bench scored a season-high 52 points on 20-of-32 (.625) shooting from the field.

• Denver registered 11 steals in the win, moving to 8-2 this season when collecting nine-or-more steals.

• The Nuggets outrebounded Toronto 53-37, marking the 13th time they have outrebounded their opponent and the fourth time by 15+ boards.

• Denver was 27-43 (.628) from the free throw line, with both their attempts and makes marking season-highs. Denver is now 3-0 this year when making 20+ free throws.

• The Nuggets handed out 25 assists, moving to 4-2 when handing out 25+ helpers.

• Both Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos registered double-doubles in the win. It was the fourth time this year Denver has had two players post double-doubles in the same game (4-0).

• Toronto went on an 18-2 run from 6:07 to 2:18 in the fourth to cut Denver’s 17-point lead down to one.