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Nuggets vs. Raptors preview: A Tale of Two Trajectories

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The Nuggets take their act to Toronto hoping to continue both teams current trends, and to show Masai Ujiri what he left behind.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Game 16: 2013-2014 NBA Season
Denver Nuggets (2009 - Present)
@

Toronto Raptors (1996 - 1998)

9-6 (3-4 road)
Series 0-0
6-9 (3-5 home)
December 1st, 2013
Air Canada Centre - Toronto, ON
11:00 AM MT
Altitude TV / 950 AM
Starters
Ty Lawson PG Kyle Lowry
Randy Foye SG DeMar DeRozan
Wilson Chandler SF Rudy Gay
Kenneth Faried PF Amir Johnson
J.J. Hickson C Jonas Valanciunas
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Raptors HQ
Danilo Gallinari (ACL), JaVale McGee (stress fracture in leg) are both out. Kenneth Faried (leg contusion) is probable Injuries None listed
The Nuggets are looking to win their sixth in a row, and start a road trip right. Stat The Raptors look to halt a two game home losing streak.

Your Denver Nuggets start their Sunday with an early game against the Toronto Raptors, a team starring DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Tyler Hansbrough. In other words, the Raptors have some nice pieces in place, and currently (somewhat shockingly) lead the Atlantic Division. Those factors make this sound like a tough way for the Nuggets to start a 6-game road trip, but there’s a little more to the story.

To the positive for the Nugs, the Raptors record sits at 6-9, and their division leadership is primarily facilitated by the unexpected struggles of the Knicks, Nets and too-soon-for-prime-time Celtics... As an aside, how bad does it suck to be a New York sports fan right now? Of the Nets, Knicks, Giants, Jets, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Devils and Islanders, only the Yanks and Rangers narrowly sit at or recently cleared .500. NYC is the Sahara of sports fandom right now, and if I were a "homer" from NYC, I’d be chewing at my wrists. Never underestimate the joys of being a Denver sports fan.

The Raptors have also struggled to put their pieces together thus far this season, sitting at 20th in scoring and dead last (30th) in assists. They are as streaky as the Nuggets were during the first 5 games of the season, as evidenced by their most recent game against the Heat, a home contest for the Raptors.

Toronto slogged their way to a 20 point deficit by the 3rd quarter, and then suddenly turned it on, closing the gap with the champs to two points with four and a half minutes left in the game before LeBron James took over on both ends, and scored 7 points for the Heat with the Raptors unable to score two more points. The Raptors came off the court angry with themselves about the hole they’d put themselves in, and I’d expect a strong effort from this team right out of the gates.

The Nuggets will need to match that with immediate intensity and not let an early day get them off to a slow start. Let’s hope Kenneth Faried’s quad injury in the recent Knicks win doesn’t limit his ability to help with that energy. Even with his unusually low 4 points and 6 boards in the Knicks game, he’s been a double-double machine of late, and was a +12 in plus/minus for the Nuggets, the only player in double digits in that category for the team.

As to that recent win, the Nuggets had one of those barely-do-enough-to-win games against an over-matched team, allowing them to hang around in a game that Denver could have put away much earlier. Thank goodness for the scoring of Ty Lawson (22 points), Randy Foye (17) and Nate Robinson (16), who comprised over 55% of the point total. To the positive, Denver held off Carmelo Anthony and crew, and have shown themselves to be the clear early and mid-term winner of the ‘Melo trade. The local pundits are not the only people starting to pick up on the conversation about how well the Nuggets could do in the draft if the Knicks don’t pick up the pieces soon.

You’d have to think the Nuggets will be favored against the Raptors, although I found it unusually difficult to find a line on the game. The Raptors are on a two-game losing streak, while the Nuggets are winners of their last five, and would like to keep the streak going. Any surprises or worries for you, Nuggets Nation?