Denver Nuggets vs Toronto Raptors Predictions and Odds
How Will the Nuggets Deal with the Raptors Pace?
This isn’t to say that the Nuggets are a slow team at all. But compared to the Raptors, the Nuggets don’t draw many possessions out of a game. With the Toronto Raptors length and defensive ability to switch at near every position, the league leading Raptors manufacture possessions through defensive stops and unforced turnovers.
It will be a case of taking care of the ball against the Toronto Raptors. Allowing the offence to run through Nikola Jokic takes some responsibility away from the turnover prone backcourt of the young Nuggets. However with the Raptors’ ability to switch, it will be difficult to not settle for one-on-one possessions.
Canadian Jamal Murray looks like a budding star, but his 2/1 AST/TO Ratio is paltry for one who is considered to be the future of the NBA’s point guard stable. At the moment he’s an all offence player, but against a stout defensive team like the Toronto Raptors Murray may need to manufacture more offence off the ball in order to be successful in this game.
What Can Truly Stop These Raptors?
So far throughout this season, the Toronto Raptors have shown little weakness. At times they’ve been beaten on the boards and at times they’ve shot poorly from three. However neither statistic would truly rate itself as a staple of the Toronto Raptors but more a product of their fluid lineup.
You could say that the Toronto Raptors go as Kyle Lowry goes. Currently the league leader in assists (10.5/game), Kyle Lowry is the key playmaker for the Toronto Raptors. When Lowry is without his shooting touch, the Raptors starting lineup is suddenly bereft of playmaking options outside of Kawhi Leonard.
In order to contain these Raptors it seems to be a “pick your poison” type of matchup. If teams lock in on Lowry, Leonard is the playmaker. If Leonard, Siakam takes a turn. Should teams pressure, they have capable release valves in Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, and Fred Vanvleet. The Nuggets will have to guard well individually to get past these Raptors and even then, they can still beat you with the second and third pass.
The Nuggets Bench is Nothing to Scoff At
Of all players to really lead a bench unit, it has been C Mason Plumlee who is doing a tremendous job of fitting into any role he’s put in. While Jokic is not a paradigm of defensive prowess, twenty games into the season Mason Plumlee is leading NBA centres in defensive rating (95.0)!
On top of Plumlee you have the likes of F Trey Lyles who can gun from outside and mix it up in the paint with the best of them. While the Saskatoon native is far from replacing F Paul Millsap in the starting lineup, he’s shown the good offensive versatility and at least the physical aptitude to be an acceptable defender as a modern power forward.
Head Coach Mike Malone has chosen to integrate Murray with some bench lineups to maintain offensive consistency and it has worked. With Murray as the primary scorer the bench has clearer role definition, which has culminated in a +8.0 net rating when Murray is teamed with the bench versus the starters.
Forget MIP, Pascal Siakam May be an All-Star
Pascal Siakam is currently averaging career highs in points (14.3), boards (6.7), assists (2.4), steals (1.2), and minutes (29.0). Not bad for the 24 year-old Cameroon native who dreamed of being a soccer player until he was sixteen. But while the numbers are great, it is the fashion by which he is achieving those numbers that have the world taking notice.
Contrary to the eye test, Pascal Siakam’s usage rate hasn’t increased greatly since last season. It is more a matter of options as Siakam develops a mismatch on the fast break, rather than in the half court. If he grabs the ball off the rim or is the first outlet on the break, teams are forced to choose to counter him with a smaller defender he can power past or a larger defender he can out-pace to the rim.
His three-point shot is still the weakest facet of his game. But Siakam has smartly chosen to take the space given to him by defenders as extra room to build up steam toward the basket. Sometimes out of control, most times incredibly effective as seen through 55% of his made baskets being unassisted. At 6’10, with a tight handle, and a great basketball IQ, Giannis Antetokounmpo might not be the only point-forward to represent the East in February.
What’s at stake?
This is a homecoming of sorts for G Jamal Murray and F Trey Lyles. From Kitchener, ON and Saskatoon, SA respectively, there will surely be a crowd in Toronto cheering on their native sons. Despite that heartwarming return, the Nuggets are taking a test to see if they can really keep up with the best of the NBA. One result won’t define their season, but lining up with the Raptors should teach them something about themselves win or lose.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets present interesting matchups for the Toronto Raptors. They don’t boast the post-play to take advantage of a shorter forward like Paul Millsap and struggle against tricky bigs like Nikola Jokic. Compounded with the fact that the Denver guards love manufacturing looks from off-ball screens the young Nuggets may test the Raptors stamina all night.
Questions to answer:
Will Murray and Lyles put on a show for their hometown crowd?
Which electric NBA bench will come out on top?
One day off a back-to-back, will Raptors go 15 deep?
Can the Nuggets wings keep up with Kawhi Leonard?
Denver Nuggets at Toronto Raptors Predictions and Odds
The odds makers have the Toronto Raptors favoured over the Denver Nuggets by 5.5 with an over/under of 109.