Coming off a big win against the Los Angeles Lakers, it's time for the Nuggets to respond by taking care of a 5-5 Toronto Raptors team. Beating a high scoring team featuring Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu isn't going to be easy.
Toronto: 5-5 (key wins: vs. Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago)
Denver: Anthony Carter (hip) is questionable. Kenyon Martin (knee/leg) and Ty Lawson (calf strain) are listed as day-to-day.
The Raptors feature a team that scores the fourth highest points per game in the NBA (106.9 ppg), the good news for Denver is that they have been giving up the fifth highest points per game in the league with 105.9. The key tonight is going to be for the Nuggets to play some defense. We saw a great defensive game last Friday ... topped off with a third quarter in which Denver only gave up 8 points.
We've seen these "trap" types games before. The team is coming off a big win, they've had a lot of rest (which was needed), and Toronto will give up a lot of points. Denver cannot get into a score-fest tonight because if they do this game will be a lot closer than it should.
The Raptors have a talented roster starting off with Chris Bosh (27.7 ppg / 11.6 reb), Andrea Bargnani (19.3 ppg), Hedo Turkoglu (14.5), Jose Calderon (12.5) and Carmelo Anthony's playoff punching bag Antoine Wright (from Dallas).
We know the Raptors can score, but Denver should actually have the advantage on the boards. The Raptors average 39.4 boards per game and the Nuggets average 43.7 boards. Again, it'll be key for Denver to not allow high-percentage opportunities and use what should be an advantage on the glass to jump-start the offense. The Nuggets play at their best when their defense is creating fastbreaks and they share the ball on offense. Against the Lakers, Denver made 37 field goals and registered 28 assists on those ... that's playing as a team.
A quick note ... if you are heading to the game tonight - they will be wanding all individuals walking in. Doors will open a bit earlier tonight (5:30 p.m.) to allow fans to hopefully not have to wait in crazy lines. There will be 10 games this season at Pepsi Center (mandated by the NBA) where all individuals will be wanded and this is the first of those games.
Opposition's Take: Raptors HQ
I'm a big believer in "balance = success" in the NBA.
To me the best teams in the league have that perfect mix of O and D, and a variation of players who perform all types of functions on the court; from scoring to getting loose balls.
When the Denver Nuggets acquired Chauncey Billups last season from the Detroit Pistons, I felt that they cemented a fairly balanced group; one capable of scoring with the Lakers of the league, yet being able to bang with the Celtics as well. (Go read the rest of the preview on Raptors HQ...)
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Frank Gunn