Preview: Nuggets and Raptors face off in their final matchup of the season

Denver Nuggets v Toronto Raptors
Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The schedule continues to get tougher, but as Michael Malone said, this team does not subscribe to excuses

The Denver Nuggets will host the Toronto Raptors tonight as they try to shrug off Thursday’s loss against Golden State. With one day of rest in between, hopefully the Nuggets can regain the activity that helped them win 9 of 10. The Raptors are a deep, athletic bunch, but after winning eight straight, they have lost 7 of their last 11. The Nuggets faced them in mid-February where they won 110-109 thanks to an incredible block by Jokic to seal it at the end. This will be the second night of a back-to-back for the Raptors, so fatigue could impact both teams tonight, but we should be in for a competitive contest.

When Denver faced Toronto in February, Siakam and VanVleet combined for 60 points and 9 threes. Denver had solid scoring all around where every starter recorded double figures, so they will need to bring another balanced effort tonight to win, but also take some of the burdens off Jokic. Denver is battling the injury bug right now as Aaron Gordon, Will Barton, Zeke Nnaji are all questionable for this matchup, and Bones Hyland is probable. The bench minutes will be essential tonight if some of the starters cannot go.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (40-27, 20-12 home) vs Toronto Raptors (36-30, 19-15 away)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Raptors HQ

Expected Starting Lineups:

TOR: PG Fred VanVleet, SG Gary Trent Jr., SF Pascal Siakam, PF Scottie Barnes, C Khem Birch

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Will Barton (day to day), Aaron Gordon (day to day), Bones Hyland (day to day), Zeke Nnaji (day to day), Vlatko Cancar (out), OG Anunoby (out), Malachi Flynn (out)

Three Keys

Get the legs back

The Nuggets are in the midst of a brutal schedule where this will be their 5th game in 7 nights. It was evident against Golden State, they suffered from fatigue of the schedule, but hopefully their day off gave them the rest they need to bring the energy tonight. They will need it because this Raptors team is as athletic as they come. Siakam, Barnes, and Trent Jr. are plus players on both ends, and they have the length and quickness to constantly disrupt opponents. The Nuggets countered that by playing in transition last time with 22 fast break points, so look for them to play fast again tonight.

Single-digit turnovers

Denver’s offense has exponentially improved since the start of the season, but the turnovers still plague them. On Thursday they turned it over 13 games, and in their last meeting with Toronto, they turned it over 18 times yet escaped with a one-point victory. If they can keep this number in the single digits, it forces Toronto to play more in the half-court and prevents them from utilizing their speed.

Prevent offensive rebounds

The Raptors are the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league. They grab about 13 offensive boards a game, but the Nuggets did well last matchup by holding them to just eight. They need to bring that same focus in this category tonight because if the Raptors are offered extra possessions they can make you pay in a multitude of ways. They can easily kick it out to their effective perimeter shooters for three, or they can draw and-one putbacks. Solid box-outs will be at a premium tonight. Since Toronto does crash the offensive glass hard, if the Nuggets can grab the rebound they should have open looks on the fast break.

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