It’s the Raptors 905 season opener, live from the Hershey Centre in Mississauga! And it overlaps with the Toronto Raptors visiting the Denver Nuggets! While the 905 are hosting the Grensboro Swarm, the Raptors will play their third game in four nights, and they’ll do so in the very unfriendly Denver environment – the Nuggets know the thin air and awkward travel presents them an edge, and they’ll really look to push the pace as a result.
They might be short on the horses to do it, though, thanks to a few injuries in the backcourt. If the Raptors opt to try to grind things down (which seems likely), they could tilt the chess board in their favor and turn the game into something of an old-school slugfest. The center battle between Jonas Valanciunas and Jusuf Nurkic is always fun and presents an opportunity for Valanciunas to stop the chatter about his late-game role of late with a big night against an opponent more suited to his strengths and weaknesses.
For full disclosure, I won’t be watching this game until late Friday night (loser) or early Saturday morning, as I’m at the 905 opener (and as always, we’ll have you covered with 905 recaps all season long). Sam has you covered with the Quick Reaction AND the Reaction Podcast (Will has a life, it turns out), so coverage will go ahead as usual.
Tamberlyn’s excellent full preview can be found here, and I teed up the game on Sean Woodley’s podcast here. The game tips off at 9 p.m. on TSN and TSN 1050.
It will be interesting to see how the Raptors handle DeMarre Carroll on this road trip. There’s only one back-to-back set on the five-game trip, but with somehting like 9,000 miloes of travel, the Denver altitude, and this being the third game in four nights (albeit Carroll sat one), I don’t expect Carroll to play more than four of five, and even three wouldn’t shock me. For now, we don’t know Carroll’s status until close to tip-off each game, but I’m going to work on the assumption that he’s playing until we’re told otherwise.
Last time the Raptors played Denver, Carroll turned in maybe his best half of the season, then kind of disappeared for the second half (and thenext few games). He’ll draw the Danilo Gallinari assignment while he’s out there, and what the Raptors might do with Gallinari outside of those minutes is an intriguing question – of late, they’ve been giving Norman Powell big threes and sending help if needed, and Powell’s done as best as you could hope in those matchups. It’s the only way he’s going to get minutes, with DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross playing so well (although Kyle Lowry and DeRozan having their minutes scaled back a bit could open up a few more minutes, too).
Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic provides a nice test for Pascal Siakam and Patrick Patterson, or possibly for Jakob Poeltl when the Nuggets shift him to center.
Lucas Nogueira, meanwhile, won’t play. He’s not with the team due to a personal matter (I think that means his baby was born! If so, congratulations!)
PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross
PF: Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Delon Wright, Jared Sullinger, Lucas Nogueira
ASSIGNED: Bruno Caboclo, Fred VanVleet
The Nuggets are without a pair of guards in Gary Harris (foot) and Will Barton (ankle), and without Mike Miller (personal). Wilson Chandler (hamstring) is available, though, and Darrell Arthur (knee) is listed as probable.
I’d expect Chandler to see a lot of time on DeRozan when he plays, because none of the Nuggets’ guards are going to be able to handle him. Jameer Nelson is too small and Jamal Murray isn’t a strong defender. If the Nuggets start a two-PG set again, I’d expect Emmanuel Mudiay to start off on DeRozan, because Nelson’s simply giving up too much size to such a major post-up threat. Maybe Gallinari sees time on him, too, something Denver was fine with in the last meeting but a matchup the Raptors eagerly attacked. (Man, DeRozan is a problem for opposing gameplans right now.)
PG: Emmanuel Mudiay
SG: Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley
SF: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler
PF: Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Juan Hernangomez
C: Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic
TBD: Darrell Arthur
OUT: Gary Harris, Will Barton, Mike Miller
- Bruno Caboclo is coming off the bench for the 905 tonight. Fred VanVleet starts with Brady Heslip, E.J. Singler, Jarrod Uthoff, and Yanick Moreira.
- I was on NBA TV Canada’s The Hangout this week, which you can check out here (feedback is appreciated, as always):
- I have a Facebook page where I’ll post all of my articles/radio spots/podcasts, some of which don’t end up re-posted here at Raptors Republic.
- I am very under the weather today. Someone bring me ramen.
The Raptors are 3.5-point favorites. Even on the road and maybe a little tired, I like the Raptors to cover that line. They’re better than the Nuggets, significantly so in the backcourt, and a spread that small gets into trying to figure out end-game scenarios and fouling and the like, so while I think it’ll be close, I’m not willing to take those points and flip Denver’s way. Raptors 110, Nuggets 103.