Game Preview: Nuggets Face Toronto on Second of Back-to-Back
TORONTO – At the time, very few understood the magnitude of the victory. The Nuggets had beaten Toronto, in Denver, on Nov. 1., easily – 129-111. They led by as many as 36 points in the game.
The Raptors, as it turned out, were a team on the way to the top of the Eastern Conference. Armed with a revamped playing style – going from heavy isolation actions to motion and passing – they own the best record in the East at 54-20, which doubles as the third-best record in the NBA.
Tuesday night’s game, however, finds both teams looking to get some things back on track. The Nuggets are coming off of a loss at Philadelphia on Monday night, a game in which they had a great first half but were outscored 72-45 in the second half. The Raptors, meanwhile, have alternated wins and losses in their last five games, losing three of them, including a 117-106 decision at home to the L.A. Clippers on Sunday.
So, what can the Nuggets do to put themselves in position to come out of tonight’s game with a victory? Start with these things…
Play start to finish: The Nuggets were the aggressor on Monday night in Philly. They took the fight to the 76ers; played with confidence and passion and swagger. Tonight, they’ll need that same start – and carry those qualities all the way through. When the Nuggets have played with speed and power and precision this season, they have almost never lost. But putting that on the court for the full 48 minutes has been inconsistent of late.
Win the third: All season long, the Nuggets have been one of the NBA’s best teams in the third quarter, but a common theme of late has been a drop-off in their play coming out of halftime. On this road trip, the Nuggets have won the third quarter just once – at Chicago. They lost the third three times – and lost two of those games – and tied the third quarter at Miami. In March, the Nuggets are 4-1 when they win the third, 2-3 when they lose it and 1-1 when they tie the third quarter.
Find bench scoring: With Will Barton in the starting lineup while Gary Harris is out, the Nuggets have to find consistent scoring off the bench. Devin Harris and Torrey Craig have both shown the ability to put up double-digit points. Trey Lyles has been able to do that as well. Toronto has a very effective bench, led by guard Fred VanVleet. The Nuggets are going to need production from reserves to cancel it out.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.