Denver Nuggets vs Toronto Raptors

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

The West meets the East as the Denver Nuggets head into the Amalie Arena on Wednesday night to take on the Toronto Raptors in their temporary home of Tampa Bay, Florida. Denver comes into the game fresh off a 110-99 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday while Toronto is coming off a 117-99 defeat to the Houston Rockets on Monday night. This will be the first time these two teams play each other this year with the most recent time they faced off being August 14th of last year when Toronto won, 117-109.

Denver Rolling on the Road

Since the All-Star break, the Nuggets have played a six-game homestand in which they played relatively well, going 4-2. However, now they’re in the middle of a three-game road trip which started in Orlando and will end in New Orleans on March 26th. The road trip shouldn’t be too difficult for the Nuggets considering they’re 13-8 away from home and have now won six in a row on the road, tied for the franchise record. At the moment, Denver is in the heat of the playoff race and their solid start to the second half of the season moved them from sixth to fifth in the Western Conference, tied with Portland with a 25-17 record overall. In their game against the Magic, Nikola Jokic put up his 12th triple-double of the season with 28 points, 15 rebounds, and ten assists. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. had 21 and 18 points in a game where Denver led by as many as 24 points and shot 49.5% from the floor.

One guy the Nuggets can always count on is All-Star Nikola Jokic who was just named Western Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season. During the last week, he averaged 26.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 59% from the floor and 58% from behind the arc. On the season, Jokic leads the Nuggets in nearly every offensive category with 27.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game to go with 56.9% shooting from the floor. Behind Jokic is Denver’s other star, Jamal Murray, who has really rounded into form the last few weeks to the point that he looks a lot like the guy we saw in the bubble last season. Murray averages 21.1 points, 4.8 assists, and four rebounds while shooting 48% from the field and 41.1% from downtown. Michael Porter Jr. is another dangerous weapon for the Nuggets, averaging 15.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and a block per game along with 52.% on field goals.

Rock Bottom?

So, about that loss to Houston on Monday night: it helped the Rockets snap a 20-game losing streak. Yeah, it’s been one of those years for Toronto so far from their poor start to inconsistent play and now trade rumors flying all over the place, mainly with point guard Kyle Lowry. Losing to the lowly Rockets was just the icing on the cake of a horrid season up to this point, not to mention turmoil on the inside such as a recent spat between Pascal Siakam and head coach Nick Nurse in which the Raptors are reportedly considering fining Siakam $50,000 for conduct detrimental to the team. Oh, and by the way, just to add more fuel to this dumpster fire, Toronto’s loss to Houston now gives them nine losses in a row. It has created a lot of frustration and even caused head coach Nick Nurse to get fined $50,000 for throwing his mask in anger after their game against Utah ended. As Nurse said after the game, “It just didn’t seem like they were going to let us win tonight.” It has seemed like that every night lately.

Fred VanVleet did all he could for the Raptors against Houston, putting up 27 points, eight rebounds, and two assists on 52.9% shooting from the floor. The loss didn’t sit well with him, however, telling reporters after the game, “If you’re not going to play any defense you better score more than 99 points.” On the season, VanVleet is Toronto’s leading scorer, averaging 20.1 points to go along with 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 90% from the charity stripe. Their second-leading scorer is Siakam with 19.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists although he has not looked as good as he did last year. Normal Powell has been a bright spot for Toronto, averaging 19.5 points on 49.5% shooting from the floor while Lowry averages 17.6 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game. The Raptors are ranked 18th overall in both points scored and given up per game, putting up 112 while giving up 112.4.

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet

I mean, what can you do with Toronto right now? Something is obviously not right over there and until they right the ship, their unity on the court should be a concern. This game is literally the opposite ends of the spectrum meeting, with the Nuggets on fire away from home whereas the Raptors can’t even buy a win lately. Denver is 6-2 since the break and fighting for a higher playoff spot so every game counts for them. With Toronto, they’re not the same team that fought won the title two seasons ago and exceeded expectations last year. This could honestly be the final game that this group of Raptors plays together because one of them will be traded by Thursday night’s trade deadline. The Nuggets are in a rhythm right now with Jokic as a strong MVP candidate and have a hunger that the Raptors don’t. Don’t forget, this game is in Tampa, not Toronto where it would be a different story. Take Denver in this one.

Denver -1.5

Want another opinion on this pick?


Full-Game Total Pick

Toronto may only be 18th overall in points per game but they’ve proven they can trade baskets with anyone if need be. While this line feels a bit high, I like what Murray and VanVleet can do in this game and expect them to have a shoot-out with each other. Denver has been great on offense this year, ranking fourth overall with 115.6 points a game and shooting 48.8% from the floor, good for third overall. With Jokic already producing a triple-double the day he was named player of the week, he’s bound to do damage against a Raptors team that hasn’t stopped anyone lately. There are far too many players that can go off for more than 20 points in this game and neither team plays at a particularly slow pace. There are going to be points here. Take the over.

Over 224