Gameday: Raptors @ Nuggets, March 12

Maybe the Raptors will put another competent game on display with VanVleet back!

It is truly wild (read: not wild at all) how much better the Toronto Raptors look with Fred VanVleet in the lineup. With any point guard in the lineup, really! But especially an All Star who does so much on the floor (create in the pick and roll, hit his triple, pull-up or off the catch, defend at the point of attack, tag rollers, run the floor, and cut off ball behind the arc) that practically no one else on the roster does. Toronto was pitiful coming out of the All-Star break, especially with a hobbled VanVleet. He sat, and the Raptors became more pitiful. Much more. He returned, looking relatively healthy and spry, getting to the rim, and hitting his little floating pull-up jumpers in the midrange, and the Raptors looked like a competent team. Beat the San Antonio Spurs with relative ease. Then beat the Phoenix Freaking Suns for almost a full 48 minutes. Funny how those things work.

The Nuggets are a different kind of beast from those teams. Not better than the Suns, certainly, but different. Nikola Jokic is more or less the best player in the NBA, one of the greatest offensive forces in the history of the league, and transcendent within the sport. The Raptors have had OG Anunoby guard him in the past, and though Jokic still got his, Anunoby was always good for a few pick-sixes at least. Instead the Raptors will trust Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa to get the majority of reps against Jokic. They haven’t seen oodles of time against him in their careers, but they’re both big and strong and at least theoretically capable of doing something. Not that anyone can do anything against him, but still. The Raptors do have good diggers, trappers, and doublers, and they love being in rotation, so you have to think Jokic won’t ever be in single coverage inside the arc. If it results in a lot of turnovers, that could tilt the game in some way in Toronto’s favour.

Otherwise, the Nuggets aren’t terribly imposing. Will Barton is their second-leading scorer, and he’s relatively inefficient both inside and outside of the arc. Aaron Gordon can dunk good. Bones Hyland is very promising for a rookie. Monte Morris is basically Fred VanVleet before the glow-up. They’re all spark-plugs, inconsistent and talented. If the Raptors start slow, any of the above could explode for big games. If they start with soul-crushing defense, they could limit everyone but Jokic very effectively.

The last contest between the two teams was a helluva game. Jokic saved the win with a buzzer-beating block on OG Anunoby, which is as superstar as superstar gets. Pascal Siakam scored 35 for Toronto, proving completely unguardable by any of Denver’s middling cadre of mobile forward defenders. (Gordon defends at the point of attack more often, now.) The Raptors led for more or less the whole game before Jokic pulled away late. That happens against MVPs. If Toronto gets another helluva game, it’ll be happy. There’ve been too few of those recently.

Denver Nuggets Results, Lineups & Injuries

Previous Results

vs Warriors L 113-102
@ Kings W 106-100
vs Warriors W 131-124
vs Pelicans W 138-130
vs Rockets W 116-101

Probable Lineup

PF: Je. Green, Ja. Green
SF: A. Gordon
C: N. Jokic, D. Cousins
PG: M. Morris, F. Campazzo, M. Howard, B. Hyland
SG: A. Rivers, B. Forbes, D. Reed


Zeke Nnaji, PFDay-To-Day moreNnaji (knees) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Raptors.
Bones Hyland, PGDay-To-Day moreHyland (knee) is probable for Saturday’s matchup against the Raptors.
Aaron Gordon, PFDay-To-Day moreGordon (foot) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Raptors.
Will Barton, SFOut moreBarton (ankle) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Raptors.
Michael Porter Jr., SFOut moreThe Nuggets are planning to send Porter (back) to the G League’s Grand Rapids Gold to scrimmage later this week, Mike Singer of The Denver Post reports.
Jamal Murray, PGOut moreThe Nuggets have growing optimism that Murray (knee) will be ready to make his 2021-22 season debut prior to the start of the playoffs, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports.
Vlatko Cancar, SFOut moreCancar (foot) underwent surgery for his right fifth metatarsal fracture and will be re-evaluated in three months, Mike Singer of The Denver Post reports.

Toronto Raptors Results, Lineups & Injuries

Previous Results

@ Suns W 117-112
@ Spurs W 119-104
@ Cavaliers L 104-96
vs Magic L 103-97
vs Pistons L 108-106

Probable Lineup

PF: P. Siakam, C. Boucher, T. Young
SF: S. Barnes, Y. Watanabe
C: K. Birch, P. Achiuwa
PG: F. VanVleet, D. Banton
SG: G. Trent Jr., S. Mykhailiuk, A. Brooks


Malachi Flynn, PGOut moreFlynn will be out at least 10 days due to his left hamstring strain before being re-evaluated by the Raptors, Amy Audibert of Sportsnet reports.
OG Anunoby, SFOut moreAnunoby (finger) is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.
Fred VanVleet, PG – Questionable

Betting Lines

+205Money Line-250