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Preview: Nuggets face another stiff challenge in Raptors

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Fresh off another loss on national television, the Nuggets return home to play the defending NBA championship.

Toronto Raptors v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

If you had any hopes of things getting easier for the Nuggets following their 132-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, think again, because the game today tips off at 4:00 PM at Pepsi Center.

While the 2019 NBA Finals MVP was the instigator of the havoc caused on Friday to the Nuggets, the Raptors are still a dangerous team without him. Kyle Lowry is still there, and Pascal Siakam has someone managed to take his game to another level this season. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has a team that plays defense on a string, moves the ball on offense, and has a unique plan of attack for every team they play.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone had strong words to say after the team’s loss to the Clippers on Friday. The things he said about the team aren’t things that a head coach says without calculating the risk of how those quotes are going to be received by the players on the roster. Hopefully a team with one (1) playoff series together rebounds and doesn’t start to fray apart at the seams as they approach the final 20 games or so of the season.

The Basics

Who: Toronto Raptors (42-17) vs Denver Nuggets (40-19)

When: 4:00 PM ET

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

How to watch: Altitude (if you can get it, this still isn’t resolved and it’s March)

Rival blog: Raptors HQ

Projected Matchups

Raptors vs Nuggets

POS TOR DEN EDGE
POS TOR DEN EDGE
PG Kyle Lowry Jamal Murray Raptors
SG Norman Powell Gary Harris Even
SF OG Anunoby Will Barton Even
PF Pascal Siakam Jerami Grant Raptors
C Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Nikola Jokic Nuggets
BENCH Patrick McCaw, Terence Davis, Chris Boucher, Matt Thomas Monte Morris, Torrey Craig, Michael Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee Even

Injuries: Marc Gasol (questionable), Serge Ibaka (questionable), Fred Van Vleet (questionable); Noah Vonleh (questionable), Paul Millsap (probable), Bol Bol (out)

Three Things to Watch

Will the Nuggets match the Raptors physicality? If there’s one thing that a team lead by Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam is going to do, it’s be physical on both offense and defense. Lowry is going to look to bulldoze Jamal Murray and Monte Morris, slowing down the game by getting to the free throw line, especially if Fred Van Vleet isn’t going to be able to play tonight. Pascal Siakam excels at being able to isolate his defender, and figuring out a way to get around him on his way to the rim. If the Nuggets can’t figure out how to stop those two guys from battering down their defensive scheme, it’s going to be a tough game to win. They need to control the defensive glass, find a way to get offensive rebounds, and force the Raptors bench to play more minutes.

Will the Nuggets defensive effort improve? The Nuggets gave up a lot of open shots to the Clippers on Friday, and it burned them by letting the lead balloon whenever they were trying to get things close. The Nuggets aren’t a team full of players where defense is going to come easy to them. They have to play with a lot of effort and commit to memorizing the scouting report so that they’re mentally sharp too. It would be discouraging to see the Nuggets lose because they aren’t prepared to stop someone like Matt Thomas or Terence Davis, especially considering the fact that Davis was on the Nuggets Summer League squad just this last offseason.

Will the Nuggets put guys on the court that can score? The Nuggets weren’t able to get defensive stops against the Clippers on Friday, and they weren’t able to get points against the Clippers defense. They have some players on the bench that can score in Jordan McRae and Michael Porter Jr., but will they play them? That remains to be seen.