The back-to-back of death has come and gone.
The Toronto Raptors came up short in their battles with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors on Tuesday and Wednesday night, but they gave it a valiant effort.
Now Dwane Casey’s squad embarks on a tough five-game road trip beginning Friday against the Denver Nuggets. These two teams met on Halloween night with the Raptors eking out a 105-102 victory on the backs of all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
Toronto will look to avoid a letdown game on the heels of two marquee, grueling matchups. Here are three storylines to follow as the contest unfolds:
Not Quite my Tempo:
The Raptors and Nuggets operate at very different paces. Denver uses over 102 possessions per game while the Raptors use less than 98. So will the Raptors be forced into rushing, or will the Nuggets get caught dragging?
Kicking off this difficult road swing, it will be paramount for the Raptors to control the tempo, especially in Denver’s dreaded high altitude. One thing working in the visitors’ favour here figures to be the free-throw game. Both teams attempt better than 26 freebies per game, which should benefit Toronto.
On the other hand, the Nuggets lead the NBA in rebound differential. Controlling the glass obviously leads to second chance points, but is also a way for a team to get out on the break. It will have to be a collective effort if the Raptors want to keep the Nuggets from owning the boards.
Take Care of the Rock:
Looking solely at the numbers, it appears the Raptors and Nuggets value protection of the basketball differently. Toronto currently ranks second in the league in turnovers per game, coughing up the rock 10.8 times. Denver is on the opposite end of the spectrum with a whopping 17.2 turnovers per contest. The opportunity should be there for the Raptors to exploit this advantage. Plus, winning the turnover battle is another way to control the tempo of the game.
If you enjoy watching the basketball move from side to side on every possession and are a fan of the extra pass, you can probably find something better to do with your Friday night than watch Raptors-Nuggets. After all, you can just check back here after the game and see what you missed.
These two teams both sit in the bottom five of the NBA in terms of assists per game. That’s what happens when your best offensive weapon thrives in isolation sets like DeRozan. Or when your top assist man averages a mere 3.5 dimes per game as Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay does.
Where to Watch: 9:00 p.m. ET on TSN