The story in Denver is who’s hurt and who is going to play when the Raptors face off against the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center tonight. Both teams may have shortened benches, but it’s the Nuggets that have been hit the hardest.
Danilo Gallinari is done for the season, JaVale McGee (stress fracture) hasn’t started running yet, Nate Robinson has a sprained ACL and Ty Lawson is doubtful with a strained left rotator cuff.
“We don’t know if Lawson is going to play,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “There are rumors that he is going to play.”
The Raptors questions revolve around their leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Patterson and to a lesser extent, Tyler Hansbrough. However, Casey said, “All the guys went through practice and shoot-around,” so there is a chance Toronto could have everyone available. Everyone except Landry Fields who recently had wrist surgery. Amir Johnson has a sore ankle, but he never misses games for just being sore.
Patterson has a cast on his broken nose and expects to wear a mask until it’s healed, even though he took the mask off because of problems with depth perception on Monday. Hansbrough played limited minutes on Wednesday, so he should be good to go and it’s been 6 days since DeRozan turned his ankle making him a game-time decision.
The last time these 2 teams played was in Toronto on December 1st a week before the Rudy Gay trade and the Raptors gave up an early 27-12 lead as Denver’s bench came in to dominate the game. The Nuggets reserves outscoring the Raptors bench 72-16 leading to a 112-98 Denver victory, but Toronto is a completely different team now.
“I think we are a different team now,” Casey said. “We should be. They ambushed us at our own place the last time. We got into a big lead, then they turned it on and ambushed us with energy and just hard play and that is what we got to do here.”
The Raptors are 2-0 without DeRozan and the Nuggets lost to Charlotte on Wednesday without Lawson.
While the 24-21 Raptors are hot, winners of 4 of their past 5 games, the 22-22 Nuggets are unpredictable with just 3 wins over the past 8 games that included defeating the Pacers and Warriors, but losing in Utah and a home loss to Cleveland. Randy Foye stepped up to produce 33 points on Wednesday in Lawson’s absence making the Nuggets even tougher to figure out.
This is the first of 5 games in 8 nights for the Raptors as they kick off another Western Conference road trip. If the Raptors win tonight, it will be the first time they have won 11 games in January since 2002.
Ujiri’s Dilemma: Raptors Veterans Are Winners
“I wouldn’t say me and the newly acquired guys are the answer,” Chuck Hayes said. “We are all just committed, that is all it is. Our chemistry is great. There are no egos in this locker room. Everybody is enjoying it. When you enjoy working together, everything falls into place.”
Therein lies Ujiri’s dilemma.