The next four games against the Nuggets, Jazz, Lakers, and Clippers isn’t the road trip Toronto wants, especially given the their intention to make the playoffs. Even though the last game against Brooklyn was technically a home game, we need to be honest with ourselves and the rest of the league… every Raps game this year is a road game.
Now with that being said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Raptors lost three of these games in late-fourth-quarter-competitive fashion, you know… a specialty of the team. But, let’s take this one game at a time. The Nuggets with MVP-frontrunner Nikola Jokic are first up on the docket.
Play-in or play-out?
Take a look at seeds 7 through 12 in the Eastern Conference:
Yeah. Not pretty at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With only 10 to 11 games left for each of these teams, the chase for a playoff spot is really heating up and Toronto plays the Bulls, Wizards, and Pacers at least once in the remaining games. To make matters worse, the Raps play the third-toughest schedule.
So it’s going to be a challenge. As corny as it sounds, Toronto needs to play like the season depends on it because it truly does (see, kinda corny right?). Being underdogs is nothing new but being on the outside of the playoff race for these guys is like any person being on Mars – it’s unfamiliar territory. Okay. I’m tired of being negative so let’s veer over to something jovial.
One major takeaway over these games has to be the growth in OG Anunobys offensive arsenal. The last game specifically, he wasn’t just catching and shooting in rhythm… he was creating for himself and others, tying his career-high for assists with six to go with 21 points. The efficiency is always there with him and if he can continue to play like that, Nick Nurse really needs to consider running the ball through him. He’s strong, quick, and is shooting the ball well. With Will Barton and Jamal Murray out, Denver’s super thin on the wing, so OG’s production on that end is imperative for the W and to prolonging Toronto’s season.
(Don’t) Let Your Guard Down
Malachi Flynn is another big piece of the puzzle. He’s starting to fill out that back-up third guard role and that’s partly because he gave Nurse no choice other than to deploy him. With under three minutes left to go against the Nets, Flynn got some crunch-time experience with Lowry and VanVleet. It was unconventional but with the hole at center being filled by Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie, Nurse has the ability to get more creative with his lineups. That same three-guard lineup should make an appearance against the Nuggets tonight, it’ll be interesting to see how Denver retaliates. As mentioned before, Murray and Barton are out, along with Monte Morris, so OG and this three-headed monster need to take advantage. The last these teams played, Toronto decimated the Nuggets and it was right before the trade deadline. So, if they just play like it’s the last time they’ll ever play together, chances of a W are pretty high.
Tip-Off: 9:00pm EDT | TV: SN1 | Radio: TSN RADIO 1050
Gary Trent Jr. (leg contusion) missed last game and is day-to-day. Paul Watson (knee), Chris Boucher, and Jalen Harris (hip) are likely out.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn
SG: Fred VanVleet, Rodney Hood
SF: OG Anunoby, DeAndre’ Bembry, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe
C: Khem Birch, Freddie Gillespie, Aron Baynes
As previously mentioned, Jamal Murray is out for the season (torn ACL; prayers up for our fellow Canadian). Will Barton (hamstring) and Monte Morris (hamstring) missed last nights contest against New Orleans so they’re both questionable for tonight.
PG: Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers, Markus Howard
SG: PJ Dozier, Shaquille Harrison
SF: Michael Porter Jr., JaMychal Green
PF: Aaron Gordon, Paul Millsap, Vlatko Cancar
C: Nikola Jokic, Bol Bol, Zeke Nnaji
Nuggets are favoured at 3.5.
The over/under is 224.5.