Fool's gold for Raps

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Back and forth they went, exchanging leads and jumpers in a game that wouldn't be decided until the final few possessions.

In the end, though, the Raptors simply were outexecuted and outgunned as they ran out of options in a heartbreaking 109-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Air Canada Centre.

The Raps were embarrassed and completely run off the floor on their ill-fated trip out west, but everything seemed to be going in their favour yesterday, with the pace not as quick and the scoring evenly distributed.

But these Raptors have no player -- save for T.J. Ford when he is playing under control -- who can create his own shot, while the Nuggets possess two in Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.

When they weren't getting favourable calls from the officials, Iverson and Anthony were making clutch jumpers and making life miserable for the Raptors, who have suddenly dropped back to the .500 level with a real possibility of sporting a losing record with the half-court minded, defensively strong Detroit Pistons paying a visit to the ACC on Wednesday night.

"We couldn't score enough points at the right time,'' Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell lamented.

"We did a lot of good things, but we just couldn't get over the hump."

The Raptors came out on fire in the first quarter, making 66.7% of their shots in leading by as many as 17 points.

Toronto's 35 first-quarter points represented a season high and an ideal starting point against an opponent that loves to put up a lot of shots.

From the game's tempo, to the team's ability to compete on the glass, to their willingness to get back on defence, the Raptors appeared in control.

That is until Iverson and Anthony began to heat up.

When the fourth quarter began with Denver nailing three successive three-point bombs, momentum began to shift and you knew the outcome wouldn't be decided until the final two minutes.

It was a period that saw Jamario Moon miss an ill-timed three-pointer with around two minutes to play, a pair of costly Raptors turnovers and Iverson and Anthony taking turns stepping up.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 36 points, while Anthony netted 33 for a Nuggets team that sits ninth in the wildly competitive Western Conference.

The Answer went 3-for-4 from three-point land in the final quarter as the Nuggets shot a better percentage from beyond the arc than they did from the field.

While Moon did an admirable job trying to defend Anthony, he did break basketball's cardinal rule of leaving one's feet on a head fake late in the fourth quarter.

By drawing the foul, Anthony was able to get to the line, where he converted both of his attempts to give Denver a 100-98 lead, an advantage the visitors would not relinquish.

The Nuggets made 20 of their 24 foul shots, led by Iverson's 11 trips to the line.

One of the Raptors' most glaring flaws is their inability to get to the free-throw line and it resurfaced yesterday with only 12 attempts.

Seven players reached double figures for the Raptors on a night when franchise player Chris Bosh flirted with a triple-double, which would have been a career first and the first by a Raptor since Alvin Williams, who recorded the statistical milestone seven years ago to the day.

"Chris had nine assists and until he gets back fully, teams are sagging on him,'' Mitchell said. "We have to make those shots when he swings the basketball. We got some good looks and Chris did a good job moving the basketball. We didn't make them pay."

For the second time this season, the boo-birds came out when Ford forced his shot with the shot clock expiring.


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