The Denver Nuggets were on the verge of one of their most impressive win of the 2017-18 season, leading the Toronto Raptors by eight points with only 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. A victory on the road over the mighty Raptors with just two weeks left in the regular season would have gone a long ways towards a postseason appearance. But just as Toronto did time and time again on its way to 59 wins last year, its bench mob eventually took over.
Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl bulldozed Denver’s second unit and then its starters, playing the entire fourth quarter while outscoring the Nuggets 32-25 over the game’s final 12 minutes for a 114-110 win.
While Toronto’s starting lineup featuring Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas was one of the best five-man units in the league last season, outscoring its opponent by an average of 9.4 points per 100 possessions, the Raptors’ bench was even better. Toronto’s second unit outscored its opponent by an average of 19.2 points per 100 possessions last year and more than held its own on the defensive end. Simply put, the Raptor’s bench scored more efficiently than the Warriors’ Hamptons 5 lineup and defended as well as the Celtics’ starters, who led Boston to the second-best defense in the league last year.
This preseason, the Nuggets’ bench unit is putting on their best Raptors’ impression.