The Denver Nuggets have enjoyed success against the Raptors in the past. Winners of 7 of the last 10 against the Raptors in Toronto, the Nuggets have also won 11 of the last 14 against Toronto in Denver, including each of the last nine going back to 2004-05. They have always played extremely well against Toronto in recent years with an average margin of victory of 13.8 points in 15 wins over the previous 10 seasons. However, injuries and inconsistent play have hit Denver hard lately and they will be looking at past success as a reason they can rebound from recent losses tonight.
Kenneth Faried (back), Randy Foye (torn ligament), JaVale McGee (tiba) and Nate Robinson (back) all missed Sunday’s game in Atlanta and the Nuggets were taken down 96-84 by the Hawks for their third loss in a row dropping their record to 9-11. The Nuggets could be rough shape again in Toronto.
Denver went 1-6 to start the season, recovered with an 8-2 stretch, but have lost badly on the road to the Wizards and Hawks in their last two games.
Prior to his 1-10 shooting performance against Atlanta, point guard Ty Lawson had been off to a great start this season, averaging 15.8 points, a career-high 10.3 assists and 1.53 steals in 36.5 minutes. He has registered 10 double-doubles this season, including seven straight games from 11/23 through 12/5. The Hawks are not winning many games without their star guard performing at a high level, but even a great performance from Lawson probably won’t be enough unless some of their injured players make a very quick return.
Toronto has split their four games since DeMar DeRozan has been out of the lineup with a groin injury, but it really hasn’t been their leading scorer’s offense that the team has missed the most. The Raptors averaged over 120 points per game in their first three contests sans DeRozan, but the team has slipped on defense and that is what Head Coach Dwane Casey was stressing in practice on Sunday. No one seems too worried about Toronto’s ability to score even without DeRozan.
Denver’s historical domination of Toronto has eased in recent years and the Raptors have earned a split with the Nuggets in each of the past three years. Centre Jonas Valanciunas averaged 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two games against the Nuggets last season and the Raptors have been playing much better against Western Conference teams in general since last season. Last year Toronto was 16-14 versus the West and this year they are off to a 6-2 start against the supposedly superior conference.
The Raptors are being led by their star point guard Kyle Lowry who has scored 20+ points in each of the last five games (Nov. 28 -Dec. 5). This ties the second longest streak of his career. Lowry reached 20 points in eight straight games Mar. 14-26, 2014. Lowry is tied with Monta Ellis for the league lead in scoring over the last five games averaging 28.4 points. While Lowry has been putting the Raptors on his shoulders at various points during games this season, the Raptors strength comes from their depth. Toronto wins and losses games based on their collective efforts.
The Raptors should be anticipated to bounce-back after a poor overall game against the Cavaliers on Friday and show the defensive effort expected from a Coach Casey-led team.