Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey knows his starters can’t play the entire game.
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After Sunday’s 112-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets, he probably wishes they could.
The Nuggets reserves outscored their Raptors counterparts 72-16 as Denver pulled away in the fourth quarter.
”Our bench has got to give us something,” Casey said after Toronto lost its third straight. ”Our guys (starters) can’t play for 48 (minutes), so we’ve got to get production from our bench.
”The guys coming in have got to develop a toughness, a resilience of getting stops,” he said. ”And, it starts on the defensive end. In the second half, they shot it well but we didn’t make them feel us.”
The 72 bench points conceded is the worst in Raptors’ history, exceeding the 69 points allowed to the Chicago Bulls in a loss on Jan. 25, 2006.
”Seventy-two points off our bench is huge for us tonight and that’s what it takes, contributions from everybody on this team,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.
Nate Robinson led Denver (10-6) with 23 points off the bench. The 5-foot-9 veteran hit five 3-pointers, including back-to-back shots from beyond the arc with just over two minutes to go, as the Nuggets coasted to their sixth straight win.
Timofey Mozgov had 16 points, Darrell Arthur scored 14 and Jordan Hamilton 10, all off the bench for Denver.
”For us we just stick together. Like Coach said, we have a tag-team mentality which is, first team wear them down and second team wear them out,” Robinson said. ”For us, early in the year a lot of guys on the team, a lot of guys on the bench, weren’t making shots and now we are in our rhythm.”
Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 23 points. Jonas Valanciunas had 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Finishing 1-3 on their longest homestand of the season, the Raptors (6-10) now head west for the next week, visiting the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
”Personally, I’m frustrated. Period,” said Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 17 points. ”We’ve just got to figure it out and turn it around on the road.
”It’s correctable but we shouldn’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over before we realize that we are doing something wrong. We have to understand what we’re doing out the gate and correct it.”
Casey shuffled his lineup, inserting Tyler Hansbrough into the starting rotation in place of a struggling Amir Johnson. And, the initial results were positive, as the Raptors came out flying, opening up a 15-point lead eight minutes into the first quarter on the strength of a swarming defense and some deadly accurate field goal shooting.
DeRozan hit his first four shots and Lowry sunk his initial two attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
But the Nuggets went on a 13-4 run over the final 3:56 of the first quarter to cut the lead to 31-25.
Denver led 47-45 at the half and had a 76-72 lead after a seesaw third quarter that featured four lead changes.
”Those guys got hot early. They did a great job and made shots and we really couldn’t stop them early on,” Arthur said. ”I knew we were going to grind our way back into it, like we do. We are starting to get it now. I think our chemistry is getting a lot better; this is our sixth game in a row that we have won. I think we are playing really well right now.”
Casey also said the Raptors didn’t pass the ball enough.
”We had only 18 assists, they had 29,” he said. ”And, that’s where it starts in the offensive end.
Gay said despite three straight losses, the Raptors are not getting down on themselves.
”If we want to win, we have to make the right adjustments,” he said.