Preseason Game Preview: Raptors vs. Nuggets

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Raptors look to build upon Saturday’s victory against the Golden State Warriors when they take on the Denver Nuggets on Monday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The game will mark Canadian rookie Jamal Murray’s NBA preseason debut, with his first NBA action taking place in Calgary.

Tip-off: 9:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: SN1/E/O/W


The Rookies Are Alright

In Toronto’s 97-93 victory over the Warriors, rookie duo Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl held off Golden State and secured the win. With starters resting for the entirety of the fourth quarter, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey got a chance to give his bench extended play. They didn’t disappoint.

“I think it went pretty good,” Siakam said. “It was very intense, but I had a lot of fun, too. The first minutes on the court against another team [after scrimmaging against teammates all week], it was fun.”

While Siakam had Raptors teammates raving about his motor and athleticism, Poeltl impressed with his understanding and feel for the game. Despite strong debuts, both acknowledged that the jump from college to the NBA will take time to become normal.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Poeltl said. “No matter how many times they tell you, you’ve got to experience it to actually get used to it and learn from it.”

Sharing the court with players like two-time reigning MVP Steph Curry is also a thing that feels new.

“You just go out there and you think it’s a regular game, and all of a sudden, you look around and you’ve got all of these guys you watched on TV in the finals,” Poeltl said. “It’s a crazy feeling, but you’ve got to get over that and look at it like it’s just a regular basketball game.”

Although the duo is getting comfortable with their Raptors teammates now, it took some time to settle in after training camp kicked off.

“It was a similar feeling the first practice when [DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry] stepped on the court,” Siakam said. “It was like, ‘Whoa, these guys just played at the Olympics.’ It’s a little crazy.”

Feeling Light

If Terrence Ross looks a bit different this preseason, it’s not your eyes playing tricks on you. During a halftime interview with Leo Rautins on Saturday night, Ross revealed that he had lost “about 15 pounds” over the summer after feeling as though he was a little heavy last season. He said the weight has him feeling lighter, which was apparent from watching him move around the court against the Warriors.

Mutombo Happy To Be In Toronto

New Raptors assistant coach Patrick Mutombo comes to Toronto after spending last season working with the D-League’s Austin Spurs. Prior to his stint with the Spurs, Mutombo spent four seasons with the Denver Nuggets. During his time in Denver, he became quite close with Masai Ujiri, and the decision to join Casey’s staff and reunite was an easy one.

“The connection from the front office to the coaching staff, you feel like one big family [here],” Mutombo said. ”In terms of basketball, you kind of look at these guys from afar and you scout against them and you watch them, but you get to know them as people. A lot of them are very responsible young men who love their families, who invest tremendously in the wealth of their families. You see when you come to barbecues and things like that, all of the kids running around. It’s amazing to see that spirit. Maybe it’s premature for me to say that, but I really think you feel that same spirit in the locker room.”

Although it’s early in the preseason, Mutombo is already impressed with what he’s seen from the organization. A believer in nurturing bonds when things are positive so the foundation is there when things get tough, Mutombo is happy to be in a situation where relationships are valued so highly.