October 03, 2016 - 10:07 PM
CALGARY - There were signs the Denver Nuggets could get the scoring boost they sorely need in a 108-106 pre-season win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
Denver ranked in the bottom third of NBA teams in field-goal percentage last season (44.2) and missed the playoffs for the third straight season with a 33-49 record.
The Nuggets not only spread offence liberally through the lineup Monday, but three players drafted this year with improved scoring in mind were composed contributors in the fourth quarter.
Chief among them was Canadian guard Jamal Murray, the seventh overall pick who scored nine points. The Nuggets regained the lead on his three-pointer in the fourth.
The 19-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., played 17 minutes in the game due to starting shooting guard Gary Harris leaving in the first half with a groin strain.
"I really wanted to hit my one and only three," Murray said. "I had a lot of fun out there tonight.
"I wanted to show I could play efficiently knowing the spots, knowing the plays. I just wanted to make sure I didn't turn the ball over and make sure I hit most of my shots."
Jusuf Nurkic (15 points), Danilo Gallinari (14) and Nikola Jokic and Will Barton (12) led Denver's attack. Nurkic dominated the boards with 10 rebounds.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone sent Juancho Hernangomez, the 15th pick in the draft, and No. 19 Malik Beasley out in the fourth quarter. They combined for 11 points and four rebounds.
"To put the ball in Jamal's hands, let him make plays and again, nothing was perfect, but we did enough to get the win," Malone said.
"I think every experience is a learning experience and that's the best teacher for all of us. This is their first taste of NBA basketball, even though it's pre-season. I know they're going to be much better at the start of the regular season at the end of the month."
The Raptors won a franchise record 56 games in 2015-16 en route to reaching the Eastern Conference final for the first time.
Toronto dropped to 1-1 in the pre-season after beating the Golden State Warriors in Vancouver on Saturday. Monday night's loss was the first NBA game in Calgary in 20 years was played in front of an announced sellout of 19,600 at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Terrence Ross came off Toronto's bench for a team-leading 23 points. Jonas Valanciunas scored 12 of his 20 points for the Raptors in the second half.
"I thought our approach was semi-soft coming into the game," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. "Their bigs just kickecd our bigs butt and they set the tone. We didn't play as hard and as physical to start the game."
The game featured a pair of Canadians, including Raptors guard Cory Joseph now playing for his hometown NBA team. Joseph, 25, was 4-for-9 from the floor in 19 minutes played.
The Vancouver Grizzlies downed the Raptors 80-77 in 1996 in Calgary in the Naismith Cup, which was an annual game between Canada's two NBA teams from 1995 to 2000.
Calgary Flames season-ticket holders had first dibs on tickets for Monday's game and the remainder sold out quickly Sept. 2.
The entrance of Raptors stars DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 15 points, and Kyle Lowry for pre-game warmup had fans leaning over the boards, begging for high-fives and autographs.
"You go to some pre-season games when they're not in NBA arenas and you never know what to expect," Malone said. "There was an excitement in the arena from start to finish."
Forward Jared Sullinger sat out Monday with a sore foot. DeMarre Carroll, who led the Raptors with 14 points in Vancouver, was given a night of rest.
As they did in Vancouver, the Raptors linked arms and some bowed their heads for the national anthems. The players have said they are doing so to draw attention to social and racial injustice in the United States.
They face the host Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers and are at home to Argentina champions San Lorenzo de Almagro for three games in three nights starting Wednesday.
Toronto opens the regular season at home versus the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 26. The Nuggets start on the road the same day against the New Orleans Pelicans.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016