If you look up "Raptors" in the dictionary you would think you'd get a definition for a blood thirsty dinosaur that knows how to open office doors and loves to chase little boys and girls through industrial sized kitchens. But no, the actual definition, as I see it, is that Raptors are reptilian thieves that like to try to steal NBA players from the Denver Nuggets. First, it was Masai Ujiri (not as a player, but he was once a player), then Linas Kleiza, Sonny Weems, Gary Forbes, and in a round about way Anthony Carter too. Then the Raptors got a little too public with their intent on trying to sign Wilson Chandler and that's when former Raptor front office employee Ujiri had enough. The Raptors would not get Chandler and this evening he'll get to show those Canadians what they're missing ...
Denver: 27-23 (12-11 on the road)
Streak: Won 1
Toronto: 16-34 (8-16 at home)
Streak: Lost 2
Denver: Danilo Gallinari (fractured left thumb) is out. Andre Miller (separated right shoulder) is still plugging along.
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless (torn oblique) is out for the rest of the season and DeMar DeRozan (left ankle) is day-to-day.
Season Series: 1-0 Nuggets
Opposition's Take: Raptors HQ
Just what have Raptors missed out on in Chandler so far? Wilson, through five games, is averaging 11.2 points on just 40% shooting (20% from deep), 6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in just over 31 minutes per game. He has been filling in for injured Danilo Gallinari in the starting lineup and providing the Nuggets with a similar type player.
Sure, Chandler's doesn't drive to the rim nearly as much or as hard as Gallo, but his smooth style has afforded him some trips to the charity stripe and his defense has been active and needed. One of Chandler's biggest difference making abilities is on the glass. It's funny how Wil seems more comfortable shooting with a hand in his face and he's already developing a nasty fade-away that could help him extend his career a la Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
The Nuggets recent starting lineup of Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and JaVale McGee is a very athletic lineup that pushes the pace, defended with an energy against the Bulls that hadn't been seen for weeks, and controls the glass with the best of them. The best aspect of that unit is the defense and the rebounding as witnessed against the Bulls.
We'll get to see tonight if the mini-funk shown against the Jazz and Timberwolves is truly over and if the solid performance against the Rose-less Bulls will be here to stay.
Speaking of guys who have and haven't stayed ... Leandro Barbosa was shipped out of town at the trade deadline, but point guard Jose Calderon remains a Raptor. I mention those two because it was rumored the Raps were trying to move them before March 1st so the team could make an adequate offer to Chandler, never happened.
Barbosa is now a member of the Indiana Pacers where he's averaging just over 15 minutes per game. Stepping in for Barbosa and injured DeMar DeRozan has been former Nugget Gary Forbes. Forbes has been averaging over 20 minutes per game in his least seven contests and rewarding the team with his time by averaging 13 points, including three nights of 19+ ppg. It's good to see the former undrafted kid from Panama play well. Expect to see Forbes in the starting lineup tonight.
Kleiza continues to come off the bench for Toronto and has been having an up-and-down season. Consistency plagued him early in his career with the Nuggets and it seems that he still hasn't figured it out yet. In March he has five games of double-digit scoring and 10 games scoring in the single-digits ... same old Kleiza-rock.
With Andrea Bargnani back in the lineup (he missed game in Denver) the Raptors have a long front-court with the 7-footer starting alongside 6'9'' power forward James Johnson and 7-foot Aaron Gray, as well. Not known for his interior play, Bargnani can cause some problems for the Nuggets if he does venture inside and it'll be up to Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee to lock down the boards tonight. On the other end, Chandler must take advantage of his speed if it is Bargnani who is forced to cover him.
The Nuggets need every win they can get at this point and it wont be easy with Forbes and Kleiza wanting to play well against their former team and Barg's being able to light it up on the perimeter. The Nuggets need to keep their defensive intensity they displayed in Chicago and continue to make unflinching decisions on the offensive end.
A must win in Toronto if the Nuggets are to make a playoff run. Let's see if Chandler and the Nuggets are serious ...
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons