Denver Nuggets 109-117 Toronto Raptors: Three Takeaways
In what largely felt like another scrimmage game, the Nuggets failed to secure a victory over the Raptors in a 117-109 defeat.
Although Denver dropped its third-straight contest, the team succeeded in its stated goal of keeping guys healthy, heading into the postseason. Aside from the injuries to Will Barton III and Gary Harris, who have yet to play in the NBA’s restart, the team has done just that.
PJ Dozier led the Nuggets with a career-high 20 points, eight assists and two steals. The defending NBA champion Raptors were sparked by Stanley Johnson, who had a game-high 23 points.
The Nuggets will now set their sights to their first-round matchup against the Jazz, with Game 1 tipping off on Monday at 1:30 p.m. MT.
Here are the takeaways
Defense costs Nuggets again
Three-point defense has tormented the Nuggets throughout the NBA restart and the issues in defending downtown reared its head again Friday.
The Raptors, who are sixth in the NBA in three-point percentage at 37.2 percent, converted 18 of their 35 attempts from behind the arc against the Nuggets. Considering Toronto’s prowess from that area, there has to be a level of concern with the fact the team was allowed to hit just over half of their three-pointers.
Yes, the Nuggets only played their starters for essentially one quarter. And sure, the absences of Gary Harris and Will Barton III have also hurt in that respect. But the reality is the Nuggets have allowed their opponents to shoot a blistering 42.8 percent from three in The Bubble, which is second to last in the NBA. Malone and his team can’t ill-afford this trend to follow them into the postseason. It could be a recipe for disaster.
PJ Dozier shines yet again
Dozier wrapped up what has to be considered a solid run in the seeding games by leading the Nuggets in scoring with 20 points. He also deserves credit for the improvement shown in other areas of his game, including three-point shooting and facilitating offense for others.
The reserve guard hit five threes, also a career-high, against a vaunted Raptors defense and also contributed eight assists, tying his career-high, to just one turnover. Dozier has provided value on the defensive end since his arrival in the NBA in 2017 as an undrafted rookie, but to see him use his size and speed to make an impact on offense is encouraging. It wouldn’t be surprising if Dozier has earned a small role in Malone’s playoff rotation.
Keita Bates-Diop shows promise
Another player who has shown some improvement in the Bubble is Keita Bates-Diop, who had 11 points, six boards and two swats. The reserve small forward didn’t shoot particularly well, going 3 of 11, but his versatility helped the Nuggets fight back from 16 down to bring the game within six in the fourth quarter.
Although Bates-Diop might not see much action in the postseason, his potential on defense could make him a player that Nuggets fans should keep an eye on for next season.