Raptors vs. Nuggets preview: Kleiza rock back in town

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Nuggets don't have a lot of home games in December (5 of 15 are at The Can), so they must make the most of the ones they do have as the Toronto Raptors are in town tonight.

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Notes from George Karl's pregame interview:

On Andrea Bargnani being a perimeter threat:

George Karl, "We thought we had the three-ball a little better under control, but the last two weeks that's not been necessarily the truth. Have we been playing the great shooting teams? Golden State is definitely a shooting team. L.A. [Lakers] surprised us with their bench coming in and doing what they did. I think we've got to stay on top of that. For me, I have got to be careful with the match-up. If Kenneth [Faried] can't figure out ... I'll probably need to change it up."

On Jonas Valencuinas:

George Karl: "It seems like he's searching for an identity a little bit. I like him. He's got good hands, great length, and he rebounds the ball with a consciousness. He looks like a 10 [points]-and-10 [rebounds] guy for life, which doesn't sound spectacular but is very needed by most NBA teams."

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 18
Toronto Raptors (1996 - 1998)

vs
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4-13

8-9
December 3, 2012, 7:00 PM (MT)
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Kyle Lowry PG Ty Lawson
DeMar DeRozan SG Andre Iguodala
Mickaël Piétrus SF Danilo Gallinari
Andrea Bargnani PF Kenneth Faried
Jonas Valanciunas C Kosta Koufos
Notes
Raptors HQ - preview is up! Blogs Already on it!
Alan Anderson & Landry Fields (out), Linas Kleiza (doubtful) Injuries Chandler & Stone (out)
Kleiza is averaging 8 pts/2 rebs in two starts this season for Toronto. Stat Denver is 5.5 games behind the Thunder in the NW division.

The Raptors' search for a small forward continues. Former Nuggets bench scoring threat, Linas Kleiza will be making his third start for the Raptors tonight. With the way things have been going for Denver, expect Kleiza to have a big scoring night even though he has missed the previous five games for Toronto. Just kidding ... sort of ... hopefully.

Toronto is yet another team that has a power forward that can and will stretch the floor in Andrea Bargnani. The former overall No. 1 pick has seen his scoring dip from 21.4 and 19.5 the last two seasons to 17 points per game this season; despite taking similar shot attempts as last season. However, his three-point shooting percentage (35%) and makes/attempts (1.6-4.4) is up this season. Kenneth Faried will have another tough assignment covering Bargs. And tonight the Nuggets cannot really switch Faried's man and Danilo Gallinari's man because Kleiza likes to hang out on the perimeter as well.

Another challenge tonight is going to be Kyle Lowry. Last season Lowry averaged 12.5 points and 4 assists versus the Nuggets (in four games with the Rockets). He's a bulldog and can get to the rim or light it up from the outside (on occasion). Ty Lawson has posted some nice nights on the defensive end this year; notably his defensive effort against Stephen Curry back on Nov. 23rd when Curry was held to just 6 points and 3 assists in 26 minutes (no it was not Andre Iguodala covering Curry in that game). Lawson will need another solid defensive game tonight.

Lowry has missed six games this season and the Raptors went just 2-4 without him. The Raptors have lost 5 games this season by 5 points or less, including two overtime contests. They've had a total of 7 games within 5 points on the season. They are not a walk-over team and the Nuggets can't afford to treat them as such.

Denver is 4-1 at home this season and the team has played well at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets haven't played since getting blown out against the Lakers in Los Angeles and I'd bet the team is ready to get away from the stink of that game.

This is the only home game of the week before the team embarks on yet another road trip; this next one is a five game trip. The Nuggets need a win tonight.

Views you can use:

-Kyle Lowry is averaging 16.4 points and only 5.5 assists this season. Shut him down and you can shut this Toronto team down.

-The Nuggets only play 5 home games versus 10 road games this month - so they need all the home wins they can get.

-Rookie center Jonas Valanciunas has been pretty hit-or-miss this season. He has put up games of 12, 22, 16, 11, 10, 18, and 12 points this year and he's had three games of 10+ rebounds. He has also had 10 games with 9 points or less on the season. Denver must contain him tonight and not let Toronto have his "extra topping" night.

***

Denver Nuggets Tickets: get to the game tonight!

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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