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The Raptors’ hopes for the playoffs may be fading, but Anunoby’s rise is unmistakable

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The Denver nuggets Have the league’s likely MVP this season in the form of Nikola Jokic, a global treat for those who believe push-ups are an overrated measure of athletic ability.

The seven-footer, lazy, jerk, with the vision of an impressionist painter, can make any play you can think of in basketball, as long as it doesn’t require jumping, and most of the ones you can’t even imagine.

But if the Toronto raptors Whether they qualify for the entry game or not, and it seems less likely all the time, the strange infusion of the 2020-21 season has yielded an inescapable truth: 1st floor Anunoby can really play.

If Jokic is the NBA MVP, is Anunoby the Raptors MVP or does he indicate he could be soon?

He continues to defend his case, even as the Raptors ship continues to drift away from shore.

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Toronto made another respectable effort but, as has been the case too often this season, they didn’t have enough power to get back on track once the drift started.

Toronto led by two after the first quarter, trailed by five at the half and was only down 87-85 to start the fourth quarter.

And then the Raptors stopped scoring, their offensive drought is as much a story of their season as playing in Tampa or dealing with COVID.

Denver started the fourth quarter with a 15-0 run and had pushed its lead to 21 after 4:53 of the quarter and that was it when Toronto fell 121-111.

The loss left Toronto 26-37 to start a brutal four-game road trip that sees them visit the leaders of the West. Utah Jazz Saturday, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers On Sunday and the sizzling Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

They are now in 12th place in the East with nine games to play to complete 2.5 games in 10th place. Washington wizards for the final place in the play-in tournament.

The Nuggets are 42-21 1/2 games behind the Clippers for the third seed in the West.

In the context of the Raptors, Anunoby’s recent move is a ray of light.

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The 23-year-old was coming off a five-game streak in which he averaged 23 points, 4.6 rebounds and three assists while shooting 46 percent of three in more than seven attempts per game, and kept rolling against the nuggets.

He finished with 25 points, his sixth consecutive game, the best of his career, surpassing the 20-point mark, and although he has normally been more efficient than his line of 8 of 21, that Anunoby was willing to prevail in that degree is a good one. augury.

And it should be noted that, for the second straight game against Denver, Anunoby kept Jokic in check – his 19 points and 11 rebounds and just two assists in a night below average for him.

Denver got a 45-point boost from its bench, dwarfing the 11 points the Raptors’ reserves provided before garbage time began.

That disparity made up for a strong night of Kyle lowry, who finished with 20 points and seven assists, and a career night from Khem Birch, who scored the best 20 points on 8 of 10 shots while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out four assists. That he made both 3-pointers he took also bodes well for the pending free agent. And rookie Malachi Flynn, starting in place of Fred VanVleet (hip), was solid again with 16 points, four assists and six rebounds on 6 of 9 shots in his 32 minutes.

But the nuggets won by walking away anyway.

The only question is whether the production Denver is receiving from Jokic will be enough for them to return to the Western Conference Finals.

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They are a deep team and are receiving additional contributions from players like Michael Porter Jr., who has shown in his second season that he is ready to be a primetime scorer, and even astute Argentine point guard Facundo Campazzo.

But the nuggets try without Jamal Murray, who marks his ACL on a no-contact play against him. Miami Heat 12th April.

Its a big lost. Murray will be out for a year or so, possibly putting him out of the mix for next season if the NBA returns to its traditional regular season from November to April.

Murray was in the middle of a professional season, matching the extraordinary levels of play he would reach during the Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals in the bubble at the end of the 2019-20 season. In his last 25 games before injury, Murray averaged 24 points, four rebounds and five assists on 50/46/94 shooting. It is difficult to do better.

Note the moves the nuggets made to add to their core (trade in for Aaron Gordon at the deadline to add some size and defensive strength on the wing, and add JaVale McGee for depth behind Jokic) and Denver was possibly one of the favorites in the West.

So even on a team as deep as Denver, the kind of scoring hit Murray delivers is hard to replace.

His teammates haven’t seen him since he fell. He stayed in Los Angeles for surgery and has not been able to fly. The Nuggets travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Sunday and the Clippers on Monday.

“All I know is we’ve all been in contact with him, but nothing like seeing him, giving him a hug and letting him know how much we miss him,” Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said.

“He has not been with the team since he underwent the surgery. He stayed in Los Angeles up to this point. At some point, you will be authorized to leave Los Angeles and return to Denver to continue the rehabilitation process. But I think I speak for everyone that we miss him and can’t wait to see him. “

But the nuggets have managed without him so far. Arriving Thursday night, they were 7-1 since Murray was injured and were 8-2 in 10 games before that. Add it up and Denver is the most popular team in the NBA since mid-March.

Jokic is a great reason. The presumed MVP, given that he averaged 26.3 points per game along with 8.9 assists and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from three and 41.7 from deep, while playing 20 more games than him. Philadelphia 76ersJoel Embiid, he’s made sure of that.

“I think they have a little bit of everything,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “They certainly have the scoreboard, they can play through Jokic from the inside and the outside, but the most important thing is that they also get a lot of those assists through him because you throw the ball at him … and you start cutting as fast as possible. as much as you can to the basket and he will slide it through the smallest spots for a dump or tray.

“So that gets you, you know, it lowers your defense a bit. It makes you have to play a little smoother going one direction so they don’t beat you in the basket, which means when those guys go the other direction, you’ll be a little out of place. So it allows them to move more freely. I think the pressure release cut like that is always something that makes basketball, offensive basketball, easier to run.

“And then [they’ve] I have a lot of guys that can shoot [they’ve] it has a lot of size, [they’ve] got a lot of marks, [they’ve] have, [they’ve] They have veteran players, they have played in the same group, not exactly, but a lot of these guys have played together for a while. That helps too. “

The Nuggets made it look easy and the Raptors’ path only gets harder from here.

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