The Toronto Raptors wasted a season-high 35-point and 10-rebound performance from Pascal Siakam in an agonizing defeat to Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
A Fred VanVleet miss from beyond the three-point arc and a Jokic block on Raptors forward OG Anunoby at the buzzer left the home side one point shy in a 110-109 loss that snapped their eight-game win streak.
“We felt like we definitely could have won the game,” Siakam said. “We felt like we put ourselves in a position to do that.”
We’ve been playing some good basketball,” added VanVleet, who chipped in 25 points after sitting out the past two games with a sore left groin. “A couple more possessions tonight; maybe it would have went our way. Gotta start another one.”
The Raptors (31-24) found out why the Nuggets’ seven-foot, 284-pound Jokic is the reigning NBA MVP. He not only scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, but provided the game-sealing block on Anunoby.
VanVleet pulled the Raptors to within one with a three-point jumper with 22 seconds remaining. Jokic then missed two free throws at the other end with 12.2 seconds left.
Siakam received the inbound pass, but after he was double-teamed, he moved the ball to VanVleet for his 24-foot attempt.
“Pascal made a great pass, and I just didn’t catch it as well as I wanted to,” VanVleet said in explaining his missed shot.
“It’s a game of inches. If I went back a few, it probably would have been all net like the one before. I’ll take it. It was a good shot. Good look. Great pass. OG got the position for the rebound. Jokic made a good play.”
Jokic was particularly good in the first quarter with 18 points and three offensive rebounds against the smaller Raptors.
“Obviously, you can’t have a first quarter with a player like that,” Siakam said. “I felt like it was easy (for him). Just the stuff he was getting. He’s probably got 50 pounds on all of us, so it’s kind of tough, but yeah, you’ve got to bother him.
“Early that rhythm and being able to do that early, I think if we could have slowed him down earlier, we would have a better chance to win, but I still think we had a chance to win and definitely a missed opportunity.”
“I think we did okay on him,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse added. “We were certainly battling him, making things difficult for him, I thought. He has the ball so much that he’s going to get his points. He hurts you on the offensive glass. He hurts you at the free-throw line, obviously. But I thought we did okay.”
The Nuggets (31-25) out-rebounded the Raptors 50-35 in a game that saw 16 lead changes and was tied seven different times. They also received some clutch three-point shooting from Jeff Green and rookie Bones Hyland, who added 19 and 11 points, respectively.
Siakam was the best player on the court at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday. He made 16 of 22 shots, including a trio of three-pointers.
“He is really playing with some great composure, I think, in the lane,” Nurse said. “He’s getting himself to some spots. I always say when he makes three or more threes, he’s probably going to end up with over 30 because he just has that confidence.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2022.