Gameday: Raptors @ Nuggets, March 11

Not an ideal matchup to be shorthanded and small. Joke's on the Raptors.

Quite frankly, this is a terrible time to be taking on the defending champions on their homecourt but its a great opportunity to play spoiler.

Denver is healthy, Toronto is not. The Nuggets have size, while the Raptors are 2-12 without Jakob Poeltl. Denver is also chasing Oklahoma City to snatch the one seed for a second straight season. The Nuggets are a league best 8-1 since the All-Star break, with their lone loss coming in overtime against Phoenix. They are 26-6 at home, tied with OKC for the best homecourt advantage in the West.

The Nuggets won the first matchup between these teams in December.

Raptors scope: 23-41, 12th in East | Offensive Rating: 20th (113.6) | Defensive Rating: 24th (117.5)

One more loss officially clinches a losing record for only the second time since 2013. Some don’t count that Tampa season at all. Another slow start could wrap this one up quickly, going against arguably the best starting five in the league.

The Raptors continue to battle regardless. They overcame a 21 point deficit against Portland to send the game to overtime. Immanuel Quickley had a couple of costly turnovers (season-high six) but that’s rare for him. IQ is averaging 21.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists on 46/43/76 splits since the All-Star break. Those are lead guard numbers.

Sidenote on Ochai Agbaji, who has made four starts since the trade: The open threes have to fall more frequently to stay on the court. Ochai is only shooting 25.7 percent from deep as a Raptor.

Toronto had some success in the past using O.G. Anunoby and some Scottie Barnes mixed with Poeltl on Nikola Jokic. None of those guys are walking through that door tonight and Deandre Ayton just dropped 30 and 19. What do they do against the 2x MVP, who is favoured to win the award for a third time in four years?

Nuggets scope: 44-20, 2nd in West | Offensive Rating: 7th (117.9) | Defensive Rating: 10th (113.1)

It’s go time for Denver. After prioritizing health for three quarters of the season, its clear they want the West to go through the Mile High again in the playoffs.

After sweeping the regular season matchup against Boston on Thursday, Utah was next two days later. Just to make sure there was no let up, Michael Malone strategically wrote a cheque he knew his team would have to cash.

It worked. Sensabaugh stared down Malone after a basket, but the Nuggets led by as many as 39. Still, that wasn’t good enough for Malone, who was seething after the lead was cut to 14 in the third quarter before Denver eventually won by 21.

Jamal Murray had a game high 37 points vs the Jazz. Playoff Murray is ramping up to the nickname lately too, averaging 24 points and seven assists on 54/49/86 splits post All-Star. The matchup with Quickley should be fun, as Murray has one of the deepest bags in the game at his disposal.

Just don’t ask Murray if he is ready for the playoffs. He was also super distracted watching UFC 299 postgame.

Game Info

Tip-Off: 9pm EDT | TV: Sportsnet 1, 1 4K | Radio: TSN Radio 1050

Raptors Lineup

Chris Boucher (bruised right knee) is questionable. Assuming that occurred on the fall after sending Saturday night’s game against Portland to overtime. RJ Barrett (illness) was a late scratch that night, and is also questionable. Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl (finger surgeries) are both out indefinitely. Currently no new updates on Bruce Brown (knee) and DJ Carton (ankle). Brucey B already returned to Denver and collected his 2023 championship ring in his last game as Pacer.

(The standard starting lineup as of late is awfully small against Denver’s frontcourt. The Jokic problem is obvious, but Michael Porter Jr. is a good rebounder, and Aaron Gordon loves to bully smaller defenders both in the post and dunkers spot. Does Darko Rajakovic go bigger? Maybe insert Boucher if he plays?)

PG: Immanuel Quickley, Javon Freeman-Liberty, DJ Carton

SG: Gary Trent Jr, Gradey Dick

SF: RJ Barrett, Jordan Nwora, Garrett Temple

PF: Ochai Agbaji, Chris Boucher, Jalen McDaniels

C: Kelly Olynyk, Jontay Porter

Nuggets Lineup

Vlatko Cancar (ACL tear) is out indefinitely after suffering the injury over the summer in FIBA.qualifying.

PG: Jamal Murray, Reggie Jackson, Collin Gillespie, Jalen Pickett

SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun, Julian Strawther

SF: Michael Porter Jr, Justin Holiday, Hunter Tyson

PF: Aaron Gordon, Peyton Watson

C: Nikola Jokic, Zeke Nnaji, DeAndre Jordan, Jay Huff

The Line

If this isn’t the most lopsided line for the Raptors this season, it’s definitely up there. Denver is favoured by 13.5! The Nuggets are gearing up to defend their title next month.