Raptors 109, Nuggets 108

Held in check after a great first quarter, Rudy Gay said he
wasn’t proud of his performance.

None of his Toronto Raptors teammates saw anything to complain
about.

Gay hit a pull-up jump shot with less than five seconds
remaining and the Raptors beat the short-handed Denver Nuggets
109-108 on Tuesday.

It was the second game-winner in three games for Gay, who beat
Indiana with an overtime jumper last Friday.

”He’s a big time player,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
”He’s a closer.”

Only four of Gay’s 17 points came after the first, and he spent
long stretches of the second half stuck on the bench after landing
in foul trouble.

”It just feels good to get a win,” said Gay, acquired from
Memphis on Jan. 30 in a three-team trade. ”Obviously it’s a not a
game I’m proud of, but I’m proud to get this win.”

Denver coach George Karl said before the game that Gay has given
the Raptors ”a different personality.”

”They seem to have more energy,” Karl said.

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said there’s an obvious change in
Toronto’s confidence since adding Gay to the lineup.

”Rudy brings that because Rudy is a confident person,” Lawson
said. ”He makes big shots.”

DeMar DeRozan had 22 points and John Lucas scored 12 of his 14
points in the final quarter as the Raptors won their third
straight.

Kyle Lowry had 11 points and 10 assists and Alan Anderson had 10
for Toronto, which made seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

Lawson led Denver with 29 points, Kenneth Faried had 15 points
and 11 rebounds and Anthony Randolph scored 16.

”It seems like the ball wasn’t bouncing our way,” Karl said.
”A lot of things were going against us.”

The Nuggets had to juggle their starting lineup due to the
absences of leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection) and
third-leading scorer Andre Iguodala (strained neck). Corey Brewer
started in place of Gallinari, while rookie Evan Fournier took over
for Iguodala.

”That’s tough,” Lawson said. ”We didn’t know till today so we
couldn’t really plan for it.”

Denver was also depleted by the loss of forward Wilson Chandler,
sidelined by a sore groin. Things got worse for the Nuggets when
center JaVale McGee left at halftime with a sore left leg.

Andre Miller scored 12 points for the Nuggets, who came in
having won nine of their past 10 overall and 15 of their past 17
meetings with Toronto.

Denver lost its second straight after having a nine-game winning
streak snapped with a triple OT loss at Boston on Sunday.

”This one is even harder for me than Boston,” Karl said.

Lucas’ third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter put Toronto up
91-83 with 9:10 remaining, but Denver scored six straight points to
make it 91-89.

Anderson hit Toronto’s sixth 3-pointer of the fourth, putting
the Raptors up 100-94 with 5:13 to play, but Lawson scored six of
the next eight points, all on layups, before a reverse layup by
Brewer tied it at 102-all with 3:02 left.

After Denver took a 108-107 lead on a pair of free throws by
Randolph with 42 seconds left, the Raptors recovered the ball
following a missed shot, then called timeout to draw up a play for
Gay, who hit the go-ahead basket over Brewer from just outside the
paint.

A driving Lawson got off a final chance for the Nuggets, but his
shot rimmed out at the buzzer.

”I was supposed to get the handoff and then it was basically a
one-on-one,” Lawson said. ”I fumbled it a little bit. Kyle Lowry
got his hand on it. I had to rush the shot with two seconds left. I
think I got the best shot I could get.”

The Raptors led 22-9 after Gay’s 3-pointer with 4:07 left in the
first but the Nuggets fought back to make it 28-21 after one
quarter. Gay scored 13 points in the first and DeRozan had eight
for Toronto.

DeRozan opened the second quarter with a soaring dunk over
Denver’s Timofey Mozgov, and Toronto rookie Terrence Ross, who’ll
compete in the dunk contest at All-Star weekend, later added a
breakaway dunk to put the Raptors up 43-31 with 6:28 left in the
half. But the Nuggets got 14 points from Lawson in the second,
slicing the deficit to 54-52 at the half.

Gay called DeRozan’s eye-popping slam ”one of the craziest
dunks I’ve ever seen.”

”The sky’s the limit for him, he’s an incredible talent,” Gay
said.

Denver took its first lead since the game’s opening basket on a
dunk by Faried with 7:02 left in the third, but Toronto closed the
quarter with back-to-back baskets by Lucas and DeRozan to take an
82-78 lead into the fourth.

NOTES: This was Toronto’s first victory over the Nuggets since a
105-96 home win March 28, 2012. … Andrea Bargnani returned after
sitting out Sunday’s win over New Orleans with flulike symptoms.
… Kosta Koufos had 10 rebounds for the Nuggets. … Toronto
allowed a season-high 70 points in the paint. … Denver has scored
100 points or more in 12 straight games. … Both teams were off to
New York for their final game before the All-Star break. Toronto
visits the Knicks on Wednesday while Denver is in Brooklyn to face
the Nets.