The Toronto Raptors (19-32) plays host to the Denver Nuggets (33-19) who are coming off a triple over-time loss against the Boston Celtics.
Andrea Bargnani will play tonight after missing the previous game and Monday’s practice. He will come off the bench behind Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas.
The Nuggets will be without Andre Iguodala who is out due to a neck injury. Danilo Gallinari will also be out due to a sinus infection.
Cage’s 5 Keys to the Game:
1. Get The Legs Ready
Any team coached by George Karl loves to run. His team has one of the highest paces in the league and love to play small ball. Luckily, Dwane Casey plays small ball a lot as well but unfortunately is not a fan of running. Will Casey have the Raptors match the Nuggets’ pace or will he get his team to slow the game down? The best bet is the latter.
2. Rim Protection
Another signature of any George Karl team is attacking the paint. Karl’s philosophy has his team attempting two types of shots primarily: layups (or dunks) and free throws. Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, and Kenneth Faried will constantly attack the paint so the Raptors bigs better be ready to protect the paint.
3. Ty Lawson
Put simply, he’s been beasting in the last few weeks and is showing why he’s an all-star calibre player. He’s been averaging 20 points per game in the last three weeks and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Kyle Lowry will have his hands full tonight.
4. Crash The Boards
Raptors must prevent second chance opportunities to the likes of Faried and JaVale McGee. Amir Johnson will have to be his regular great inside self again tonight. Valanciunas has been great in his last two games averaging 11.5 rebounds per game. It has been reported that he will get starter minutes going forward so look for him to put up big numbers as well.
5. Bench Production
The Nuggets have one of the best benches in the NBA with starter calibre players like Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, JaVale McGee, and Wilson Chandler all part of the second unit. The Raptors will somehow have to match their ability which will be very tough.
Tonight’s X-Factor for the Raptors will be Kyle Lowry. With Iguodala and Gallinari out, expect Lawson to take on a heavy load on the offensive end. Lowry will be to be near perfect tonight on the defensive end. Lowry must be slowed down.
Photo credit: David Zalubowski/The Associated Press