After struggling without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani in the lineup (0-6 in his recent absence), the Toronto Raptors were ecstatic to see the Italian big man ready for their four-game road trip. It also helped that other players were able to contribute as the Raptors did not solely have to rely on Bargnani’s scoring to win the ballgame. The first game was against Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns.
After missing six games, Bargnani scored 36 points, including 27 in the second half, and put on the finishing touches as the Raptors snapped their six-game losing skid against the Suns. The Raptors have not won back-to-back road games since 2009, and that would also give them a major boost going into Friday’s matchup against the high-flying Denver Nuggets.
The Raptors were also able to go into their next game on a back-to-back against the Utah Jazz and come away with a huge victory in double overtime. Salt Lake City (EnergySolutions Arena) is never an easy place to play in, and the Raptors have not won a game there since December 22, 2004. Last night was a huge achievement for first-year head coach Dwane Casey and the Raptors franchise.
The Raptors were down by as many as 18 points in the second half, but were able to ride the shooting of both Bargnani and Linas Kleiza (as both scored 25 points) against a physically tough Jazz team. Bargnani was able to do his scoring as the Jazz were without center Al Jefferson (sore ankle).
The Raptors got a huge boost from Kleiza as he was able to make big three-point shots in the fourth quarter as well as in the two overtime periods. Maybe a victory like the last two can spark the Raptors, and they can use this to their advantage as they face a Denver team on Friday that has been playing at a high level as they start their post-Carmelo Anthony era.