There's a pretty good chance that the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Timofey Mozgov is another name: Blake Griffin. (And unless you're a Denver Nuggets die-hard, a wistful New York Knicks fan or a committed supporter of the Russian men's national basketball team, there's an even better chance that the Blake dunk is the only thing you think of when you hear Mozgov's name.)
Highlight-reel ignominy aside, though, the 7-foot-1 center has carved out a niche as a sound rotational NBA big man capable of helping on the glass who's willing to protect the rim even if he's got a top-notch finisher barreling down the lane toward him ... as Toronto Raptors swingman Rudy Gay found out on Sunday:
Oof. Despite the vicious turn-back and subsequent hard fall, Gay would stay in the game, finishing with a team-high 23 points on 10 for 23 shooting and nine rebounds in 38-plus minutes. Mozgov, for his part, got the better not only of Gay on that drive, but of the Raptors' front-line throughout the Sunday contest, showing touch around the rim and a nose for the ball en route to one of the best performances of his four-year NBA career:
Mozgov finished with 16 points on 6 for 12 shooting, a career-high 15 rebounds (including seven on the offensive glass), two blocks, two steals and an assist to help push Denver to a 112-98 win over the flagging Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
Mozgov was just one piece of a bench unit that torched Toronto on Sunday — the Nuggets' five reserves outscored the Raptors' four backups 72-16, led by guard Nate Robinson's team-high 23 points on 9 for 14 shooting, including a 5 for 8 mark from 3-point range. That's the highest point total the Raptors have ever given up to an opposing bench, and Mozgov's strong work was a big part of that.
After the game, though, it was Mozgov's defense, and especially the block on Gay, that merited the most mention, according to Holly MacKenzie of the Denver Post:
"We tease Timo a lot because he gets dunked on a lot, but he's going for every block," Robinson said. "And that's what you need. You need a guy that's going to go in there and block every shot because if we get the ball, we're going to score in transition."
Denver outscored Toronto 18-7 in fast-break points en route to Sunday's win, their sixth straight and eighth in their last 10 games. The Raptors, on the other hand, have dropped three in a row to fall to 6-10 on the season. Dwane Casey's team still holds a half-game lead in the Atlantic Division over the 7-12 Boston Celtics, because the Atlantic Division is pungent, super-heated garbage.
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