Raptors end regular season with win over Nuggets

August 14, 2020
Raptors end regular season with win over Nuggets

Seldom-used Stanley Johnson scored 23 points and the Toronto Raptors wrapped up the NBA’s seeding round with a 117-109 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

On an afternoon the Raptors sat four of their five starters, Raptors back-ups stepped up big time. Paul Watson, who signed a two-way contract between Toronto and Raptors 905 in January, added 22 points, while Norman Powell finished with 15 points, Terence Davis had 14, Matt Thomas chipped in with 12, and Malcolm Miller scored 10.

The Raptors went 7-1 at the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, despite having the toughest schedule in the eight-game seeding round. Their 53-19 regular-season record will stand as second-best in the NBA behind Milwaukee.

PJ Dozier had 20 points to top Denver (46-27). Jamal Murray of Kitchener, Ont., who missed Denver’s first four games in the bubble with a hamstring injury, had 11.

The Raptors led by as many as 16 points Friday before taking a nine-point advantage into the fourth quarter.

Johnson, who’s never managed to find a strong footing in the NBA since he was drafted eighth overall in 2015, launched back-to-back three-pointers to put Toronto up by seven midway through the fourth.

‘A lot of people didn’t expect us to have this kind of season’

Johnson fed Watson for an alley-oop dunk that had the Raptors on the bench celebrating wildly, then Davis connected on layup on Toronto’s next possession with 4:45 to play to put Toronto up by 13. The Nuggets pulled to within seven but Watson’s shot from distance stretched the Raptors’ lead to 10 with just under two minutes to play.

The Raptors face the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of the opening round of the playoffs on Monday.

Toronto finished the season with a franchise-high winning percentage of 73.6.

“It was a pretty good (regular season),” coach Nick Nurse in his pre-game Zoom availability. “Probably a lot of people didn’t expect us to have this kind of season. A lot of guys stepped up. A lot of growth for a lot of players. I think our defence was great. There was a lot of resiliency considering we had a lot of injuries, too.”

Toronto’s success came despite losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to free agency last summer. The Raptors were also pummelled by injuries, their 219 total man games lost to injury ranking them fifth worst in the league. The team’s top five scorers all missed at least 10 games each with injuries.

“Just a good kind of top-to-bottom effort by the crew for certainly the first 60-plus games, and then to re-gather and keep it rolling once we got here, it’s good,” Nurse said. “It’s a joy to be around this team.”

Gasol was the only regular starter to play Friday. In a bubble management move, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam sat out for rest. Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby both took the afternoon off minor knee swelling.

Davis led the way with 12 points in the first quarter, and the Raptors led 31-23 to start the second.

The Raptors took a 16-point lead early in the second after an 8-0 run, and they led 58-50 heading into the halftime break.

Toronto led 85-76 to start the fourth.

The Raptors had lost their previous three games to Denver, including a 133-118 defeat on March 1. It was the lone loss on Toronto’s five-game road trip that ended two days before COVID-19 shut down the league.

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