After a valiant effort against the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors look to turn the corner when they host the surging Denver Nuggets this afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto (6-9) is currently on a two-game losing streak while Denver (9-6) is seeking a sixth straight victory.
Denver has historically outclassed the Raptors, winning eight of the past 10 head to head matches. Toronto needs to be in top form against this talented and deep Nuggets squad.
There should be plenty of dunks in this one. Let’s get to the Cage’s 5 Keys to the Game.
1. The 12th man
In years past, the Air Canada Centre had a profound impact on the opponent’s performance as fans cheered loud and demoralized the visiting team. This season, Toronto lacks a competitive home advantage as the team have yet to pull off an upset over a quality opponent. The Raptors need to get that Northern mojo back; it has to start this afternoon against the Nuggets.
2. Keeping up with Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson is one of the more underrated point guards in the NBA. The 26-year-old is on the verge of a career season with averages of 20.9 points, 8.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals on an impressive .462 % shooting. Lawson can score in a variety of ways and can impact the game in the blink of an eye with his elusiveness – Kyle Lowry needs to be defensively sound in this match up.
3. Limiting early leads
The Nuggets potent offense loves to put away their opponents early, scoring an average of 28.4 points in the first quarter. Denver excels through running the floor and creating fastbreak opportunities as their starting five is skilled, athletic and unselfish. This game has the potential to get out of hand very early, so it will be important to put extra pressure on the Nuggets from the opening tip.
4. Offense, Offense and more Offense
Denver can’t defend – plain and simple. The Nuggets rank in the bottom tier of most team defensive metrics including opponent points per game (102.9), opponent field goals made per game (38.5), opponent field goals attempted per game (88.3) and opponent free throw percentage (.769 %). The Raptors shouldn’t have a problem scoring against this sieve defense.
5. Minimizing Turnovers
The Nuggets are an opportunistic bunch and feast on turnovers, amassing 14.8 per contest along with a turnover per game differential of +0.7. The Raptors are abysmal in terms of assists per turnover (1.15) and need to do a better job of protecting the rock against a squad that capitalizes on errors.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
Lowry has averaged 14.8 points, 8.2 assists, 2.8 steals and 4.0 rebounds over the past five games. If the “little engine” outperforms his talented counterpart on both ends of the floor, the Raptors could be en route to a victory.