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Preview: Toronto Raptors travel west to play Denver Nuggets

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The Nuggets return to Denver after a four game road trip to host Kyle Lowry and the Raptors.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets return to Denver tonight to face off against Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors have gotten off to a nice start to the season, using a revamped defensive lineup with studs like Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and OG Anunoby propelling them to the second-best defensive rating in the league (albeit over six games). The Raptors have lost on the road to the Spurs, 101-97, and on the road to the Warriors, 117-112, with wins over the Lakers, Bulls, Trail Blazers, and 76ers.

It’ll be a great test for the Nuggets, who have seen their offense sputter at times in their first seven games, although they had some success at times in their last two games. Jokić has been leading the offense more, and is having an incredibly efficient shooting line as a member of the 50/40/90 club (I rounded up on his FT%).

It could be a painful night for some Nuggets fans who pined for OG Anunoby in the draft, as the former Indiana wing will likely be a part of the rotation for the Raptors, and will likely match up against Will Barton or Wilson Chandler. Bring tissues.

The Basics

Who: Toronto Raptors (4-2) at Denver Nuggets (3-4)

When: Wednesday, November 1 at 7:00 PM MT

Where: Pepsi Center

How to watch and listen: Altitude, 950 AM

Rival blog: Raptors HQ

Injury report: DEN: Juancho Hernangomez (mono - out). TOR: Jonas Valanciunas (out), Malcolm Miller (out)

Three things to watch for

East versus West. There are a few countries that separate Serbia from Switzerland, but tonight Jakob Poeltl (Ya-kob Pur-tle, like turtle with a P) will get up close and personal with Nikola Jokić a few times as the starter while Jonas Valanciunas is out. All Poeltl has done is lead the team in rebounds and been one of the most efficient shooters in the league. Facing Jokić is another challenge all together though, and is hopefully a matchup that Jokić can win.

Finding space to shoot. The Raptors are an aggressive defensive team, with Lowry, DeRozan, Powell, Miles, Anunoby, and Wright all able to get up in the face of the player they are marking on defense. The Nuggets don’t have too many players that can create their own space off the dribble, and they’ll need to find ways to get the Raptors away from them so they can knock down some shots.

Don’t turn the ball over. The Nuggets started their road trip as the worst team in the league at turning the ball over, but they return to Denver ranked 14th in that category. If Murray and Mudiay can limit the mistakes, that gives them the best chance to succeed, and they cannot give the Raptors easy points in transition. Make DeMar DeRozan work in the midrange to get his 30 points. Make Kyle Lowry shoot contested 3-pointers, not toss lob dunks on fastbreaks.

Prediction

Raptors 105 - Nuggets 102