LAS VEGAS – Coming off a blowout loss at the hands at Timberwolves Sunday night when Denver committed 23 turnovers, a frustrated Micah Nori said that the Nuggets’ underwhelming performance was the “same story” as their opening night loss to Houston.
In their 82-81 loss to Toronto, Denver was able to curtail their turnover troubles for one half, but that problem reemerged late in the fourth when a series of giveaways doomed the Nuggets.
After a competitive first half that saw Denver play its best brand of basketball so far in Las Vegas, Juancho Hernangomez hit a three with 2:30 left put Denver up 79-78. But the Raptors, behind point guard Fred VanVleet who scored 17 points on an efficient 5-for-6 shooting, pushed Toronto back in front 82-79.
Hernangomez and Torrey Craig then teamed up to force a Toronto turnover after they smothered VanVleet in the backcourt with 30 seconds on the clock and the Nuggets trailing by three. Hernangomez was then fouled on a three-point attempt and made two of three free throws with 14.5 seconds remaining.
A subsequent steal by Tyler Lydon set up a hectic sequence that saw Malik Beasley turn the ball over before Pascal Siakam was whistled for a double-dribble. However, yet another turnover by Denver on the next possessions ended what hope the Nuggets had at their first Summer League win.
“I don’t think we had that many (turnovers), then I think we had maybe two or three, Juancho had one, Malik had one, Tyler came up with a steal. It was very entertaining,” Micah Nori said with a laugh about the end-of-game sequence. “And they had some turnovers and gave us a chance as well. I guess we only had four (turnovers) in the second half but they came at inopportune times.”
For the Nuggets, Beasley again led the way with 19 points on 7-18 shooting from the field. Beasley also hit 4-8 from distance. Hernangomez struggled on offense, scoring just eight points on 3-10 shooting. Monday was likely Hernangomez’s last game in Las Vegas as he’s set to join the Spanish National Team in preparation for EuroBasket 2017 next month.
One player that emerged for Denver tonight was Craig. Craig played 21 minutes and was on the floor as a part of Denver’s closing lineup in the fourth quarter versus Toronto. He’s a 26-year-old wing who starred last season in the Queensland Basketball League in Australia and is known for his defensive presence on the wing. Craig showed that prowess today and it was the reason he was on the floor late in the game.
“He was great, couldn’t ask for anything more,” Nori said of Craig. “He’s long, he’s active, kept Fred (VanVleet) in front of him.”
Denver now moves onto the knockout portion of Summer League on Wednesday.
“If we can continue to take care of (the ball) with the same type of energy, we’ll be right there,” Nori said. “And hopefully, have a chance to win it at the end.”
Henry Sims, a 27-year-old center who’s spending the summer with Denver, got his first start of Summer League and scored 12 points on 6-8 shooting and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes. Sims, who’s had a cup of coffee with four NBA teams — most notably the 76ers who he played in 73 games for during the 2014-15 season, looked like an NBA player today.