The Denver Nuggets (18-10) are back in action tonight as they start a three-game road trip on the east coast against the Toronto Raptors (11-15). This has been one of the more interesting inter-conference matchups over the last few years with the two sides trading victories in each of the last four seasons. The even more interesting stat is that the two sides are 2-2 at home in the series with neither team having a clear and distinct advantage when they’re not traveling.

The Nuggets are coming off of an absolute drubbing of the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. After a particularly rough stretch in the middle of November, they’ve been stringing together some wins as of late with a 4-1 record over their last five games, with the lone loss coming in the final seconds against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

For the Raptors, they’re better than their 11-15 record would indicate. They’ve taken some good teams to the brink this season, but they’ve also allowed lower-end teams to scrap with them and steal games late. They brought back the majority of their team, outside of Fred VanVleet from last season, and they’re still working out the kinks of replacing his production, especially late in clutch situations.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (18-10, 7-8 away) @ Toronto Raptors (11-15, 8-7 home)

When: 5:30 p.m. MST

Where: Scotiabank Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Toronto. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starting Lineups:

TOR: PG Dennis Schroder, SG Scottie Barnes, SF OG Anunoby, PF Pascal Siakam, C Jakob Poeltl

DEN: PG Reggie Jackson, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Aaron Gordon (heel) PROBABLE, Christian Koloko (illness) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Rebounding Battle

These two teams are built in a similar mold with a lot of long bodies on the floor at all times, and it makes sense that they’re right next to each other in the rebounding rankings, with the Raptors at ninth with the Nuggets in 10th. In Denver’s 10 losses, they’ve lost or tied in the rebounding battle in six of those 10 games. Denver has to win the battle on the boards, especially on the defensive end, as the Raptors rank sixth in offensive rebounds per game. 

Take Care of the Ball

The Nuggets are 28th in turnovers per game this year while the Raptors are tied for the 10th-most. The Raptors like to turn teams over and run in transition with their athletes, and that is the exact way that the Nuggets get worn out and fall behind in games. Both of these teams have the ability to get hot in a hurry if their opponents let them, and free buckets in transition would only make that easier. 

Jamal Murray the Scorer

Since Jamal Murray returned from his injury, he’s been a big indicator of the team’s overall success. In the three wins over the team’s last five, he’s shooting 27-of-44 from the floor, including 10-of-13 from 3-point range. In their one loss, he shot 5-of-13 and 0-of-6 from 3-point range. It’s unfair to put the entire blame on Murray, but his production strongly correlates to the team’s success. He’s -115 to score 20+ points on ESPNBet, and, while the matchup isn’t the best, I don’t mind Murray in this spot with his ability to get hot in a hurry.

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