The Raptors play host to Denver tonight, coming off of last night’s thrilling come from behind everyone get on Kyle Lowry’s back because he’s single handedly carrying us to a win but careful not to make any sudden movements because he’s super nauseous with the flu and we don’t want him to yack and hey wait is Bebe maybe kind of an NBA player! Here are 5 storylines to watch in tonight’s game:
- A Denver loss means more than just a Toronto victory. We own the Knicks 1st round pick, because Masai is a boss who distracts Knicks GMs with magic tricks. However, the Nuggets, thanks to a previous Masai trade while he was there, own the right to swap picks with the Knicks if their pick is worse. So really, we get the less ideal pick of New York and the Nuggets. Right now, both teams are on pace for the lottery and the Nuggets are doing worse than the Knicks. It’s in our interest for that to keep on going that way.
- More minutes for Bebe! Nogueira played 16 minutes of surprisingly effective basketball last night. He led the team with a +22 rating and finished multiple alley-oop lobs from Lowry at the rim to help the Raptors clinch their victory in Atlanta. Bebe is enjoying the dividends of an injury opportunity in the lineup and the added experience of playing full games for the 905 on his development. I wouldn’t expect the same minutes or production as last night, but it’s worth watching to see how he responds.
- Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay is a very interesting player. He’s dynamic and a much smarter basketball player for 19 years old and not having played in college than I thought he would be. He’s already shown enough to move up if there was a re-draft as probably the best guard in his class. Unfortunately, he hasn’t developed a solid 3 point shot yet and doesn’t have any bigs on the team with any kind of gravity to help him run the pick and roll. As a result, teams have quickly realized how to largely swallow that play up. That’s good news for the Raptors, because Mudiay is very likely going to be a devastating weapon in the pick and roll eventually.
- Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari looked slow and his shot a little uncertain last year in his return from major knee surgery. That was sad to watch from a player who was quietly becoming very good. He’s been fantastic this season though, putting up highly efficient numbers as the leading scorer on a bad team. That’s something that’s usually hard to do. He’s getting to the line and shooting very well in spot up and catch and shoot scenarios, but far less efficiently when teams force him to be a shot creator. The Raptors need to make him put the ball on the floor but avoid fouling him in the process. This is the very kind of job DeMarre Carroll was brought here to do.
- Trap game? The Raptors are playing a segababa, coming off of an emotional and hard fought win. They’re missing key players and Lowry, though he played fantastic last night, is more likely to feel the ill effects of being ill today. Denver, surprisingly, has been better on the road than they have at home. The good news is, Denver is in the same boat. They badly miss Nurkic and Wilson Chandler, Gary Harris is doubtful for tonight and they played last night too in Chicago, and lost. The line is Raptors +10. I would be greatly surprised by a Raptors loss, but I wouldn’t be surprised by the Nuggets sticking around more than you’d think they would because the Raptors are content to win instead of dominate. The Raptors have tended to play a little lazy against lower ranked teams in the last couple of seasons, more content to try and cruise to a win than put their foot on their necks. The Raptors are the moneyline pick, but I’d take the points if you’re betting the spread.