Nuggets vs Raptors Playoff Matchups
The Toronto Raptors go for a ninth straight victory when they take on the Denver Nuggets in a matchup of playoff contenders Saturday night. The contest is scheduled for a 7:30 pm ET opening tip at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The Nuggets are coming off a road loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday night that snapped a two-game winning streak. Denver is 30-25 and in second place in the Northwest Division, trailing the first-place Utah Jazz by 4½ games and leading the third-place Minnesota Timberwolves by 1½ games.
Toronto completed a three-game road trip with a rout of the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. The Raptors improved to 31-23 with the victory and are in second place in the Atlantic Division, 1½ games behind the first-place Philadelphia 76ers and a half-game ahead of the third-place Boston Celtics.
Giving It Away
The Nuggets had won two straight before facing the Celtics on Friday night, a game in which they led by as many as 11 in the first quarter and by nine at halftime. But Denver turned the ball over 21 times, including nine by All-Star center Nikola Jokic, which allowed Boston to come from behind for the victory.
“It happens to us every night,” Jokic said after Friday’s loss. “Some nights are better; some nights are worse. We didn’t put ourselves in good positions.”
Jokic is usually the one putting his team in a good position to win, as he’s making a strong defense of his first NBA MVP award from last season. The big man ranks in the top 10 in the league with his averages of 25.8 points (seventh), 13.7 rebounds (second), and 7.9 assists (eighth). He’s also averaging 1.4 steals per game while shooting 57.5% from the floor.
Forward Will Barton has been the team’s second-best scorer this season, averaging 15.5 points along with 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Barton takes the most 3-pointers per game on the team, hitting 37.6% from beyond the arc.
The Nuggets are hoping for some more production from forward Aaron Gordon. The 26-year-old is hitting 52% from the floor and averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, with all of those numbers up from his partial season with the team last year after getting traded from Orlando.
Starting To Roll
The Raptors added some depth up front at the trade deadline, acquiring Thaddeus Young from San Antonio for guard Goran Dragic, who had played in five games. How much time Young will be able to get is uncertain, as Toronto is playing well with its rotation.
Leading the way is forward Pascal Siakam, who is averaging a team-best 21.8 points and 8.7 rebounds. Siakam is also second on the Raptors in assists per game with 5.2 while averaging 1.3 steals per contest.
Guard Fred VanVleet was named to the All-Star Game for the first time, and with good reason. The sixth-year man is averaging career highs with 21.6 points, 7.1 assists, and 4.6 rebounds this season while hitting 39.7% from 3-point range. VanVleet is listed as questionable for this contest due to a groin issue that kept him out of Thursday’s win over Houston.
With VanVleet out, Gary Trent Jr. had a bigger role in the offense, and he responded with a season-high 42 points, hitting 6-of-13 from 3-point range. Trent is enjoying his best NBA season, averaging 18.8 points, 2.0 assists, and 2.0 steals in a bigger role in his first full season in Toronto.
Raptors Keep Winning
Denver is 15-15 on the road and it faces face a rolling Raptors team in this one. With or without VanVleet, there is plenty of firepower in the Toronto lineup, and that will be enough for the Raptors to overcome any numbers that Jokic is able to put up.
When doing your NBA betting, take Toronto to win and cover at home.