The first two games for the Raptors thus far have gone, well, about as expected. A convincing win over a short-handed Pistons team followed by a blue-collared loss to LeBron and the Cavaliers has led us into this match-up tonight with Denver. The Nuggets after two games also sit at 1-1 and look to build some momentum early on in the season in order to stay relevant in the Western conference playoff picture.
Tonight’s game will be fun, entertaining and full of kids — and not just in the stands. Believe it or not, the Raptors and Nuggets are the third and fifth youngest teams in the NBA respectively (Kyle Lowry is grandpa Dino). That being said, we know we are in for a competitive battle, as both sides have a number of talents that will look to continue to prove themselves at the NBA level.
For the Nuggets, the Raptors will have to deal with the two-headed monster in the front-court duo of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, otherwise known as “Jurkic.” It will be interesting to see how rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl can respond. In the backcourt, sophomore guard Emmanual Mudiay and scoring maestro Will Barton will pose an honest and difficult task for the Raptors, as Mudiay seems to be finding his rhythm in year two, posting a stat line of 16 points, seven rebounds, 3.5 assists and two steals through the first two games thus far.
Here are a few key things that we can zone in on for tonight’s game:
Jamal Murray’s Hometown Debut
Jamal Murray may not be a prolific NBA scorer just yet, but the kid from Kitchener Ontario has an incredibly high offensive ceiling. Murray was taken seventh overall in last year’s NBA entry draft out of Kentucky. Tonight, Murray will live the dream of any athlete competing in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area — playing in front of your home crowd.
Murray will play his first game in Toronto tonight and will no doubt have a boatload of family and friends in attendance. (His ticket requests are apparently already in the triple digits.) Look for Murray to feed off of this energy and if given the minutes, excel against the Raptors tonight.
Time for All-Star Kyle Lowry to Breakout
Over the first two games of this Raptors campaign, Kyle Lowry has been, by his standards, average at best. He has done a great job facilitating the basketball averaging six assists early on, but has yet to really show what he can do in terms of scoring the basketball. Last season, Lowry was a 39 percent shooter from three-point land, but has recorded just two three-pointers throughout the opening contests. Lowry also shot 42 percent from the field in 2015-16 and is shooting just 27 percent thus far.
Now, this is far from a cry for help — don’t get me wrong. Lowry has been good to start the season and the sample size is extremely small. I just know that he is due for a big game eventually, and over time will have those numbers back to where they ought to be.
Raps Need to Just Let it Fly!
After the outcome of the first two games, it is hard to argue against the Raptors lack of three-point shooting. It’s also hard to imagine a team finding success in today’s NBA without using the three-point line. Get it Raps? Let it fly! In 2015-16, the Raptors were the fifth best three-point shooting team, scoring at a click of 37 percent from beyond the arc.
They have the ability to attack inside, but also kick it out and have their perimeter players go to work. This season however, the Raptors have shot the least amount of threes in the league at 34 attempts. They have also hit the least amount at just seven. If Luis Scola were Steph Curry, this would make a little more sense, but I don’t think that losing him is the reason for our lack of three-point shooting. The Denver Nuggets were the third worst team at covering the perimeter last season, so if there were ever a time to get the three-point party going, in the words of Baltimora, tonight’s the night.
Where to watch: 7:30 PM, Sportsnet Ontario