Game Preview: Raptors vs Nuggets

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Toronto Raptors (23-8) @ Denver Nuggets (19-9)

When: Sunday, December 16th, 8 P.M. ET

Where: Pepsi Center

 

Leading into tonight’s game:

Injury Report: For the Raptors, Norman Powell is out with a left shoulder subluxation. Jonas Valanciunas is out with a dislocated left thumb. Kyle Lowry is questionable with a left thigh contusion and Pascal Siakam is listed as questionable with back stiffness. For the Nuggets, Isaiah Thomas (right hip surgery), Michael Porter Jr. (low back surgery), Gary Harris (right hip injury), Jared Vanderbilt (right foot surgery), Will Barton (right hip/core muscle injury), and Paul Millsap (right big toe fracture) are all out.

Closing time: Sunday’s game against the Nuggets will be the final in a four-game west-coast road trip. The Raptors handled the first two games easily, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors handily in a back-to-back, but then stumbled in Portland, falling 128-122 to the Blazers. Kawhi Leonard returned to the lineup against the Blazers, leading the Raptors with 28 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Serge Ibaka added 18 points, six rebounds and a blocked shot. Despite the loss, the Raptors are still an NBA-best 23-9 on the season. 

Recent history: The Raptors last saw the Nuggets two weeks ago in Toronto, where Nikola Jokic had his second triple-double of the season to lead the Nuggets to a 106-103 victory. Jokic finished with 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds, while Jamal Murray added 21 points as the Nuggets won the game despite losing leading scorer Gary Harris to a hip injury. Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors in the loss with 27 points, while Serge Ibaka scored 15 points and Pascal Siakam added 14 points. 

Extra Assists

Roadblocks: Though Kawhi Leonard returned to the lineup in Portland after missing the team’s previous two games with a bruised hip, Kyle Lowry missed the game with a thigh contusion. The team was also without Jonas Valanciunas, who underwent surgery on a dislocated thumb after being injury against the Golden State Warriors. Valanciunas is expected to be in a cast for four weeks. Pascal Siakam also took a hard fall under the basket and missed much of the second half with back stiffness. On the positive side, after Sunday’s game, the Raptors will not travel past the central time zone for the remainder of the season. After closing out this road trip, Toronto will also snap a 27-day stretch without having two days between games. The last time the team has had two days between games was Nov. 18-19.  

Call up: With Jonas Valanciunas sidelined, Chris Boucher has been called up from Raptors 905. Prior to the call up, Boucher has been crushing it with Raptors 905, earning G League Player of the Month for November by averaging 29.6 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. In his most recent game with 905, Boucher had 47 points and nine blocks against the Oklahoma City Blue. The 47 points were a G League season-high and a franchise-high for Raptors 905.

Joker rules: The Nuggets enter Sunday’s game on a two-game winning streak, including Friday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-98 to move to 19-9 on the season for the best record in the Western Conference. Nikola Jokic narrowly missed out on another triple-double in the win, finishing with 24 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, while Jamal Murray added 19 points and nine rebounds, including nine in the fourth quarter to help the Nuggets pull away. The 23-year-old Jokic is having a fantastic season, averaging 17.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He is ninth in the league in assists.

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