The Nuggets look to sweep the back-to-back against the playoff hungry Toronto Raptors

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The Denver Nuggets host the Toronto Raptors in a possible revenge game for the Nuggets as they were blown out in late March 135-111. They were outscored by thirty in the three-point department and it felt like Toronto could not miss. They will definitely need their two scoring leaders in Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr., but if PJ Dozier, Aaron Gordon, and Facu continue to give a little punch offensively it will go a long way.

Denver will have to revive some focus after they made a tough game much tougher against the Pelicans. In the last game of a back-to-back, the number one priority is health. Denver cannot afford another injury. Another scary sight occurred last night when Michael Porter Jr. seemed to injure his ankle, but he said postgame he should be ready to go for this one.

With a win tonight, Denver would inch a half-game closer to the third-seeded Clippers, and those two teams will face off on Saturday. If the standings were to remain the same and Denver obtained the third seed, they would face the Mavericks instead of the Lakers to open the playoffs. Some would like for the Nuggets to match up with the Lakers in the first round, but I don’t think anybody is comfortable playing a LeBron-led team.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (41-21, 23-10 home) vs Toronto Raptors (26-36, 10-20 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball 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 Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Raptors HQ

Projected Lineups:

TOR: PG Kyle Lowry, SG Fred VanVleet, SF OG Anunoby, PF Pascal Siakam, C Khem Birch

DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG P.J. Dozier, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Gary Trent Jr., Paul Watson, Jalen Harris, Monte Morris, Will Barton

Three Things to Watch

Protect the basketball. Denver must take care of the ball better. Yesterday against the Pelicans, the Nuggets surrendered 18 turnovers leading to 22 Pelican points. In their last matchup against Toronto, they gave up 20 points on 12 turnovers. The Raptors are a strong defensive unit. They lead the NBA in opponent turnovers per game at 16.2, and Nick Nurse usually has his guys playing spirited defensive basketball. They have very athletic defenders in OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakem, but Denver has the size to match so protecting the ball will be a premium especially after last night’s debacle towards the end of the game.

Compete from beyond the arc. Whether it be defensively or offensively the three-point line may be the difference in this game. The previous matchup saw Toronto shoot 50% from three, and nearly double the Nuggets in made threes at 24. Denver has the advantage inside, but leading the paint battle might not be enough if the Raptors catch fire as they did on March 24. Toronto is 25th in the league in opponent three-point percentage at 37.6, so there will be open shots from deep it is up to Denver to knock them down.

Get out and run. Toronto is a good half-court defense, and though Denver likes to play slow, it will benefit them to get out in transition. The Nuggets scored a mighty two fast-break points last time compared to Toronto’s 16. The Raptors rank 25th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 44.9%, so when there are missed shots, capitalize and start a fast break. It’s one of the easier ways to score, particularly if Denver has an off-shooting night.