Chill, Vale, we got this.

Chill, Vale, we got this.

The Raptors begin The Roadtrip of Doom in Denver tonight, coming in at 4-13 and looking at maybe 6-16 as a best case scenario by next Tuesday. Denver has been extremely inconsistent this season and have lost three straight, making their pattern so far 3L-4W-3L-4W-3L, so I suppose they’re due for another four-game winning streak.

The Raptors don’t match up particularly well given that Andre Iguodala can lock down DeMar DeRozan, Kenneth Faried can outwork every Raptor on the glass, and we apparently traded Andrea Bargnani’s Soul in the offseason.

Before we get into the analysis, though, Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company was kind enough to answer a few questions on tonight’s match-up.

The Nuggets have lost three straight, with the defense looking like the key culprit. Is this a short-term blip, or do the Nuggets have some defensive issues to work out?
My greatest concern heading into the season was the Nuggets’ defensive deficiencies. Denver has traditionally been an above average defensive team under George Karl, but last season saw a frustrating decline both statistically and empirically. Denver’s greatest struggle is to defend the perimeter. A sweet shooting guard can always get off an open three off the high pick and roll as the Nugget bigs simply do not get out to help on the screen and contest the shot. Both Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon should be able to take advantage.

Denver’s rotations were nonexistent last season and while they are improved this year, they are still deficient. They continue to struggle to challenge shooters on the weak side and players like Jodie Meeks, who shot 6-7 from behind the arc against Denver on Friday, have feasted on the Nuggets.

Surprisingly, not all of Denver’s struggles are on the defensive side of the ball. The Nuggets have greatly hindered themselves by turning the ball over, especially in the second half, and missing free throws. Denver converted only 18 of 32 freebies in a two point loss at Utah last week.

Has Danilo Gallinari magically gotten bad, or is he coming around? Seems to be something going on with Italian players right now…
One thing I have noticed with Gallo is he is a slow starter. Last season it took him time to find his groove, and then every time he returned from missing time due to an injury, he was slow to bounce back. Gallinari is in the process of hitting his stride offensively over the last week averaging 17 points on 45.7% shooting including 9 of 16 from three point range. Early in the season most of his shots were coming from 18 feet and beyond, but Gallinari is getting better at attacking the rim and posting up. I expect Gallo to continue to build in his recent performances and return to his almost-an-all-star-but-not-quite level of performance.

What is more fun: Watching The Manimal Kenneth Faried play, or getting to consistently observe Epic Vale Javale McGee?
While both players provide endless entertainment Nuggets fans all love The Manimal. McGee has actually toned down his act considerably since arriving in Denver. His pilgrimage to Hakeem Olajuwon has paid obvious dividends. McGee is more polished on offense and not a complete train wreck on defense. McGee still plays out of position and tries to block too many shots. One egregious example was last week against Utah when he cheated across the lane in the hopes of blocking a shot by Al Jefferson, who was already defended by 7’ 1” teammate Timofey Mozgov. McGee could not get any closer than under the rim and as a result gave up a wide open put back when Jefferson missed. However, the egregious goaltends are becoming few and far between. I believe McGee gets goaltending calls on reputation as he has had several close calls all go against him. Refs just expect him to goaltend.

Faried is the kind of player who is easy to root for. He is always giving it his all and even when he does the wrong thing, you know his motor of a heart is in the right place. Faried has also visited Olajuwon this summer and is now a tad more effective around the rim than he was last year when, if he was not dunking the ball, he was probably going to miss.
Faried is undersized and McGee continues to struggle with the finer points of NBA basketball. However, when they are both playing well, the Nuggets own the paint.

What would you identify as the key to the game for the Nuggets? What may be the one area the Raptors could exploit to steal a win?
Denver is at their best when they defend well. As mentioned above, the Nuggets have shown improvement, but still struggle on the perimeter. The bad news for Raptors fans is Toronto is the kind of team the Nuggets tend to do well against. Toronto is not defending well right now and they are not a great three point shooting team with multiple players who can hurt Denver from behind the arc. They also do not have a power forward who can take advantage of Faried on the block.

In my mind the key to the game will be Andrea Bargnani. If he can have a big night from the perimeter, and Lowry and Calderon can hurt Denver from the top of the circle on the high pick and roll, Toronto can keep themselves in the game. However, if misses from the perimeter lead to easy run outs by Denver, Toronto will end up experiencing another double digit loss in the Mile High City as they have on four of their last five trips.

Tale of the Tape
Off Rating: Denver 106.6 (11th), Toronto 102.2 (22nd)
Def Rating: Denver 106.8 (23rd), Toronto 107.5 (25th)
Pace: Denver 92.7 (8th), Toronto 91.4 (19th)
Strength: Denver Offensive Rebounding (1st), Toronto Ball Control (3rd lowest TO%)
Weakness: Denver Forcing Turnovers (27th), Toronto Hacking (3rd in opponent FT/FGA)

Positional Breakdown
Point GuardKyle Lowry and Jose Calderon v. Ty Lawson and Andre Miller
Advantage: Nuggets
Ty Lawson has been a pretty serious disappointment so far, shooting just 40% and scoring just 13 points a game when he was expected to take “the leap” this year. That said, Kyle Lowry has also been disappointing and is clearly playing hurt, plus his defense hasn’t been nearly as strong as a) advertised or b) Lawson’s. Miller is somehow still an adequate back-up at age 36 and is the best alley-oop thrower in the NBA. Jose Calderon is probably better offensively at this point, but he’s going to get torched any time the lightning-quick Lawson is in the game with him.

WingsDeMar DeRozan, Mickael Pietrus, Linas Kleiza and Terrence Ross v. Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler
Advantage: Nuggets
Gallo and Iggy both score about 16 a game, chip in on the glass, and help with assists. As Jeremy mentioned, Gallo is heating up from the perimeter, which will make him a challenge defensively, especially for Kleiza since Gallo can put the ball on the floor, too. Iggy is one of the top wing defender’s in the league and is significantly stronger than DeRozan without giving up too much in the quickness department, making this a really tough match-up for DeMar. Pietrus looked fine in his debut but isn’t going to be a difference-maker beyond the fact that he’s replacing some really poor minutes with adequate minutes. Ross might be in for a good game if the Raptors try to run with the faster-paced Nuggets, as he’s thrived in wide open games thus far. Corey Brewer adds another defensive element off the bench, though I personally can’t stand watching him.

BigsAndrea Bargnani, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Boss Davis v. Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos and Timofey “Moz Def” Mozgov
Advantage: Raptors
Faried is the best big in the game but the Raptors might arguably have the next four best (though I wouldn’t argue this, Epic Vale FTW!), as McGee and Koufos are still figuring out the game while Mozgov is still figuring out how to avoid junk in his face on posters. I would hope Davis gets some run to try and combat Faried’s efficiency on the glass, while Amir might be the best bet to handle him on defense (assuming he shows up). Bargnani is, as usual, the key offensively since he’s the only Raptor who will have an appreciable match-up advantage, working from the perimeter against an interior-oriented set of bigs. The Raptors have simply not been outworking teams, and that’s something they’ll need to do in this one. Oh, and Jonas…well, he should be alright banging with Koufos, and he’s already a headier player than McGee, so assuming the guards look his way out of the pick and roll rather than attacking Lawson (a mistake), he could have a decent showing.

The Pick
Vegas has the line at Denver by 10, which sounds about right given the difference in talent, effort and performance thus far. Hollinger’s Power Rankings would predict Nuggets by nine, if that’s more your thing. I don’t like the Raptors’ chances, but I’m at least looking forward to watching Faried go gangbusters when the Raptors don’t hustle for rebounds. So tune in to TSN2 at 9 p.m. to see the Raptors lose by…7.

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  • FAQ

    I predict…. a surprise…!!!!

    • Nilanka15

      Good call.  I say the Raptors either win or lose this game….

      • Copywryter

        I believe our MO is to win until we lose. Good or decent start followed by disaster quarter or collective brain fart in crunch time.  Good marker for these moments is when Matt Devlin starts talking about JV or Terrence Ross.

    • BCJoseBargnaniCaseyGots2Go!!!

      If the Raptors can keep it under 20 in the Mile High tonite I’ll be surprised.

      DD gets locked down by AI tonite & no calls rom refs.

      AB’s rebound over under for tonite: 4.

      Gallinari outshines his Italian counterpart AB as Bargnani resides at the 3pt line/ft line extended 90% percent of the game with JMcGee, Maniamal & company in the paint for the Nuggets it’s a no fly zone for Air Pasta!

      Val gets schooled- dog ate my homework, although the effort is there.

      Lowry & Jose both will get got by Lawson & Miller respectively. 

      Karl is a much better coach than Casey- his assistant in Seattle. 

      Denver 125 Raptors 105

  • Jmramos

    Come on, we can be a serious team tonigth, we need someone who take the ball in the importants moments. just like that. we need More personality from De Mar, Amir, Kyle and Andrea. it just an acttitud stuff.

  • Statement

    2-3? LOL.

    Don’t think so.

  • p00ka

    lol, not that it matters, but you lost me when your Denver analyst said “Denver has traditionally been an above average defensive team under George Karl”

    HUH? When did this guy start paying attention to the NBA? Karl teams have always been way above average offensively, but rarely even sniff average defensively, including while at Denver. During his tenure there, his team’s PPG offensively have ranked 5,3,2,6,3,1,1 prior to this year. His team’s PPG defensively 23,26,29,18,20,21,29. “Traditionally above average”??? How about never above average and almost always in bottom 3rd in the league.

    After such an off base statement, how can you take anything else seriously?

    • Scooter

      Points per game do not account for the pace Denver plays.  Defensive efficiency is a much more effective stat and Denver has frequently been in the top ten under Karl.

      • BlakeMurphy

         What he said.

      • Jamshid

        Rap of the Day 🙂
        p00ka you just got owned 🙂

        • p00ka

          lmao,,, if that’s the worst I’m ever “owned”, I’ll die a life long winner.

      • p00ka

        I’m not a stat geek, so take a rather simple view of them. Perhaps you can provide some actual facts to back up this claim of ” frequently been in the top ten under Karl” for whatever “defensive efficiency” is.

        When I look at Basketball Reference’s “Defensive Rating”, if that’s what you mean, they define that as an ESTIMATE of points allowed per 100 possessions. Sorry, but that “estimate” part makes this stat sound a little wishy washy, but since you seem to feel it holds great credence, perhaps you can explain why it’s more accurate. Even looking at that stat, in his 8th year with Denver, “top 10” has only been reached twice, which hardly means frequently, but more importantly, the most recent years are 20,16,16, with this year sitting at 23 so far. Though I have fundamental issues with evaluating anything that’s an “estimate”, these past few years are certainly not top 10, nor are they above average.

      • BCJoseBargnaniCaseyGots2Go!!!

        As well, Seattle SuperSonics…………one of the top defensive teams of the 90s with Payton/Kemp coached by Karl……..

  • RapthoseLeafs

    Game can go 2 ways ….. lol.

    Actually …. last season (March 28th – 2012) when Faried & Andrea were in the line-up, and Nuggets played Raptors – in Toronto – our Front Court manhandled them.

    Raptors FC – 66 pts / 39 Rebs
    Nuggets FC – 47 pts / 31 Rebs
    IN-THE-PAINT (pts) …. Tor (40) – Denver (31)

    However …  in Denver on Jan 27-2012  (with Faried & Bargnani both out – but Nene in for Nuggets)

    Raptors FC – 27 pts / 36 Rebs
    Nuggets FC – 60 pts / 38 Rebs
    IN-THE-PAINT (pts) …. Tor (11) – Denver (33)


  • 2damkule

    all this time, i thought ‘statistically’ & ’empirically’ kinda, sorta meant the same thing…

    • BlakeMurphy

       I think he meant “anecdotally”

  • RAps

    Will be interesting to see the battle of the rebound monsters Kenneth Faried and Andrea Bargnani.

    • Jamshid

      How about Energy and hustle of Farid vs our main man, the heart of Raptor Amir Johnson ??

      • Nilanka15

        I think you spend a little too much time forcusing on Amir.  He’s a role player at best….an interchangeable part.  Not a player any team should be heavily leaning on.

        • what the

          your boy gary forbes was a role player too but you thought his role was keeping the offence FLOWING

          • mountio

            Ive gotta admit .. your persistence does make me laugh on a regular basis …

            • Lorenzo

               Same here, whenever that guy writes something I cant help but laugh either since its like watching a child go through 2nd grade English.

        • Jamshid

          7 million dollar role player 😉

          • Nilanka15

            That’s on Colangelo 😉

  • NyAlesund

    Is this going to be the last game of Primo Pasta? Some rumors are on the net. Is Gasol on the road?


    • Nilanka15

      The rumours don’t specifically mention the Raptors, do they?  I haven’t see any Gasol/Bargnani discussions outside of this forum.

      • RapthoseLeafs

        Even if these rumours were true … why would we want Gasol? Maybe if we were a play-off team, but otherwise … NO.

        More importantly, how would Gasol feel about spending a better part of 2 years here?


        • sleepz

          Well, he would easily be the best player on the team and your position as a GM should always be to try and add more talent.

          That being said I agree with some of your other reasons, not to mention the fact that his salary over the next 2 years is ‘mighty healthy’ (shout to Ghostface!yeaaah.)lol.

          If this team had more pieces I could see the logic but now is probably not the time for a Gasol trade.

      • NyAlesund


        This is question of days. I am sure that AB will be no longer a Raptors’ player. Colangelo needs to do something. AB is not really involved in this team, Casey is not happy, Bargnani is not happy, the teammates are not happy and the current standing is awful. Lowry is not the type of pg suit to AB and Casey wants to see the guys run. Gasol is a legit centre able to play in PF position with a lot of talent, great rebounder, not exactly the defensive monster but more efficient than AB.

        Also, we do not forget the initial taget the po even to regain the draft pick (from Houston).

        • mountio

          In additional, Simmons had mentioned some form of AB/JC combo for Gasol before the season and they were talking about DD/AB for Gasol on Cowherd last week. Not sure these are “official” rumours .. but we are one of the few teams that a Gasol deal makes sense for (J Smith in ATL would be another) .. and the D’antoni hiring makes AB’s 3 pt shooting (as compared to Gasols) even that much more attractive. Throw in that they have major PG injuries and maybe Jose actually has a role to play (and is another guy with 3 pt range)
          Would I be thrilled with Gasol? Not my first choice. But, if all i have to give up is AB and JC .. I think its a deal that I do pretty quickly. If I have to give up any other young guys (DD, even Ed) .. not sure

        • p00ka

          Some of you ppl with rumour mongering. UGH. The link you provide isn’t even close to a rumour with any substance. In fact it isn’t a rumour at all. It’s a Bulls writer (how much inside knowledge does he have in T.O. or LA?), proposing a trade that he thinks should happen, not what anybody in either organization has spoken of. Sheeesh, some people here love TMZ more than basketball.

          • NyAlesund

             To be perfectly clear: I want Bargs staying in Toronto. I always convinced that he is the best asset of the team. I hate Lowry way of playing basket since when he was in Texas. I don’t think he is the right pg for this team.

            The only thing I did was reporting a news/rumors. Nothing more.

  • JHP

    2-3 OMG Whatever he’s on I need some!!!

    This franchise has never been good on the West coast.

  • et-man

    Only way we win this game tonight is if Lowry decides to play like a team player and Derozan doesn’t take 20 plus shots to get his 20 points per game.

  • Jamshid

    All the new talks about AB and Jose for Pau is making me laugh. 
    I suggested this trade about 3 weeks ago but said, it will take more than AB and Jose to get Pau. I know the herd likes to think AB and Jose have value but the reality is they don’t.Do yourself a favour and listen to ESPN 710 ( Lakers Radio) . You can listen to it online. If they move Pau, they want defence, shooter and they want young guys who can run. Include Ross and you may get Pau otherwise Raptors have no chance. Just listen to ESPN710 and don’t make the mistake you made with your wet dreams for Rudy Gay all summer.

    Now, the question is can BC make this happen or is he going to let Jose walk or just get a 2nd round draft pick for him before the deadline ??

    • Jamshid

      Gasol + Blake  =  AB + Jose
      Gasol   =  AB + Jose + Ross

      • voy

        in what nightmare scenario do we trade bargs, jose and ross for gasol? 

        • Jamshid

          Give it few more weeks and few more Crap games from AB, add to that a slight injury to Jose and an angrier herd , and you will do the trade that you proposed as well 😉 It is all about the value.

        • Nilanka15

          Hypothetically speaking, what if Gasol comes to Toronto, and puts up MVP-type numbers for the remainder of the season as the primary option of offense?  All of a sudden, we’ve got a $19 million trade chip with “real” trade value, and it basically cost us Bargnani (and Calderon’s expiring contract).  Perhaps Ross’ “potential” could be replaced with a future 1st rounder obtained by unloading Gasol.

          • voy

            i know we all understand the goal is to win a championship.  however, I dont think using up 2 of your bullets for gasol and hoping he puts up mvp type numbers in order for you to sell him at higher than what you bought him at is a very well thought plan.  or at least not a plan that has a high probability of success. 

            + I think moving a 19 million $ contract is going to be alot more difficult than moving barg’s 11 million.  look at the playoff teams. if they are going to trade for gasol, who are they going to give up that fits with our rebuild but also works out money-wise?  I think its easier to move two smaller pieces (bargs and jose) than one very large contract.

  • 511

    No reason at all to pick the Raptors to win this game but I hope these things happen: 

    – Pietrus has a good game and a bit of the veteran leadership that he says he wants to bring adds an ingredient to the mix that we’ve badly needed. He’s been around and he knows the game so why not? Remember, this team (Raps) could’ve had a very different record right now if not for one extra stop and/or made shot here or there. It’d also be nice if Pietrus — who seems to be a remarkably nice guy and who is also more than a little bit happy to be a Raptor (and likes BC a lot – who knew?) — hits a couple or so of those threes from the corner that he seems to like. 

    – Bargnani comes out wanting to show Danilo Galinari that he’s still the boss. If memory serves (and it might actually not) Galinari looked like the better Italian on the floor the last time they met on an NBA floor. So I figure Bargs owes him one. And after late game heroics of-a-sort on Friday past, he could be ready to break out a good game. Again, why not?

    – Amir plays a good second-in-a-row game for a first (for him) of the season. Hoping for this one because I wondered last week if he might actually play better when he’s in discomfort (after giving his ankle that nasty turn) and then … didn’t he go and bring it Friday night. So … maybe his ankle still has him preoccupied enough to have him extra-focused on the task at hand. Or however that might work for him. 

    Let’s get ’em, boys. 

    • 511

      sometimes this team makes me nuts. 

  • voy

    the raps can give me “crap game” after “crap game” and nothing would convince me to take on gasol for any combination of bargs, jose and ross.  a 32 year old gasol would be a good piece on a playoff team but he would be a horible fit on the raps. 

    I’d rather offer jose a contract for far less than he’s making now.  if he decides to walk, then he walks and thats 10 mill off the books. 

  • KJ-B

    Thank you Leo–Raptors are 3-1 when -7 scores less than 10 pts… Hmmmm???  

    He’s “supposed to” play better against Gallo teams right?  We’ll see– 3 & 1 when -7 scores less than 10..w_O_w

    • KJ-B

      how does a 7 footer play 19 minutes in the 1st half and have a  12-0-0-0-0-0 line, 6/13 from field–does all this guy live for is long 2’s/3’s???

      By contrast 6’7″ DeRozan is 14-5-1-0-1 6/8 from field…I don’t know–this is getting awfully old.

    • Destro

      Did he really say that ? Hes creating a narrative based on 4 fckn games LOL…

      They desperate to create a narrative to save em lol

      • KJ-B

        HE DID just b4 tipoff in studio… so 2nite’s lookin’ like Raps move to 1-13 when -7 scores in double figures… The #’s at some point don’t/can’t lie!

  • Destro

    nice rebound at the end ofthe  half bargs you fuckn puss….o rebounds in the half ZERO!! He lets a 5-10 PG take a rebound from him….he such a soft ass bitch…