Game Preview: Raptors @ Nuggets
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Raptors return to Toronto after dropping a close 121-117 decision to the Cleveland Cavaliers where the Golden State Warriors are waiting. The Warriors come to Toronto with an 8-2 record after defeating the Phoenix Suns 133-120on Sunday night. While Toronto was in Cleveland taking on the Cavaliers, the Warriors were arriving in Toronto and holding an evening practice session in advance of Wednesday's game.
Tip-off: 9:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: TSN / TSN1050
Keep calm, kick off a five-game trip
Although the Raptors were disappointed to drop two close contests against the Cavaliers and the Warriors, the team is in good spirits to kick off a five-game road trip. Fighting until the final buzzer helps erase some of the sting from the losses because everyone in the locker room knows they’ve given their all.
“We’re always going to play to our last moments, every game,” Kyle Lowry said. “It’s just another loss. It’s two in row now so we’ve got bounce back, try to run some games off and get some wins.”
The season has already been in full-swing for three weeks, but DeMar DeRozan isn’t allowing anyone to look too far ahead.
“It’s still early,” he said. “It’s 10, 11 games [into the season]. It’s still early. This is the toughest back-to-back you can ever have. We were right in both games. Now we understand once you go on the road, our backs are against the wall and we like that pressure on the road. We’ll take care of business there.”
Siakam learning game by game
With Jared Sullinger still rehabbing from foot surgery, rookie Pascal Siakam’s NBA career began with him in the starting lineup for the Raptors. Through 11 games — all starts — Siakam has earned praise from the coaching staff as well as his teammates for his effort and energy on a nightly basis. In Toronto’s 127-121 loss to the Warriors, Siakam played 30 minutes, scoring 10 points to go with nine rebounds and a steal. Despite the opponent and bright lights of a nationally televised game, Siakam went to work, just as he had the previous 10 games.
“I thought he competed,” Casey said. “I thought he brought us energy. We knew these two games were going to be tough, difficult. I thought his youthful enthusiasm, bouncing around, kept us going and got us bouncing.
“Really loved the way he played, what he brought to the table. I’m really excited for his future. He’s going to be an excellent player for us.”
Siakam said he is learning as he goes, and that limiting his focus to the play that’s happening in front of him is what’s allowing him to get better game by game. Despite a solid start filling in for Sullinger, like DeRozan, he’s not getting ahead of himself.
“It’s a long process and it’s going to be a long process,” Siakam said. “I know that. I try not to think about this stuff and right now I feel a little more comfortable. There’s still a long way to go. I have to keep fighting. As long as I keep playing my game, play hard and keep learning about the game, how it is, the better for me.”
Raptors focus turns to the defensive end of the floor
After topping 112 points in the previous five games, the Raptors are ready to lean in to their defensive roots. Despite Jared Sullinger being unavailable to start the season and starters Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll both missing games, Toronto hasn’t had any trouble scoring the basketball. From DeMar DeRozan’s hot start to Terrence Ross providing a scoring spark off the bench, putting points on the board has come fairly easily for the Raptors. Getting stops is where Kyle Lowry wants to see improvement moving forward.
“Offence is really clicking right now, but our defence….we’ve got to play better defence,” Lowry said. “We played a high-paced team in Cleveland and Warriors, but we’ve got to find a way to get the points down under 100 points and play a more defensive-minded game.”
Even after victories this season, Lowry and DeRozan have brought up the importance of the team’s commitment to defence. It’s clear Casey’s defensive-minded approach has rubbed off onto his backcourt, as the veterans use whatever opportunity they have to remind everyone that it is their defence that will determine how the season goes. Looking toward the road trip, Lowry wants to hear more talking on the floor.
“I think it just starts with communication,” he said. “Communication is where we’re breaking down right now. It’s not bad, but we’ve just got to communicate even more. Know what we’re going to do in all of our coverages in every situation.”