As a starting point, we can admit the past week has been a rough one for the Raptors. They've played in only two games, but they just happened to be against the two greatest basketball teams on the face of the earth. That the Raptors showed as much fight as they did against the Cavaliers and Warriors on back-to-back nights is impressive. That they lost both games was, to a certain degree, expected.
Viewed through that recent historical lens, this game against Denver should be something of a relief for the Raptors. The Nuggets are not one of the top three teams in the world. They are a collection of mostly young, variably talented players still carving out an identity for themselves in the NBA. They are 4-7, and have won only one of their last five games. They are dangerous, but not overwhelmingly so. Even when you factor in having to play in the high mountain air, and in the third game in four nights, the Raptors are favoured.
So what then of the Raptors? We know Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas will be there. We know the former two will play a lot of minutes, but we don't quite know exactly what will happen with Jonas. Tonight's game would be an interesting test for Lucas Nogueira, for example, who was unavailable in the last meeting between these two teams. Ditto, the starting power forward situation with Pascal Siakam (though he did play and start). Both these young men can leverage their quickness against the speed of the Nuggets' forwards -- but who is outsmarting Nikola Jokic? And who is wrestling with Jusuf Nurkic? Questions, still.
The rest of the team falls pretty easily into place except -- except -- with regards to the status of DeMarre Carroll. DC played in only one of two games this past week -- opting for GSW instead of CLE -- but it's clear that even when he is available, the Raptors are playing it safe with his minutes. (Here we again take a moment to send up a hosanna to the heavens for the presence of Norman Powell.) The status of Carroll (to say nothing of Jared Sullinger, still wheeling himself around on a scooter) remains the biggest mystery that surrounds the Raptors.
(For their part: the Nuggets are apparently without Will Barton tonight due to an ankle sprain. Gary Harris is also still out. However, we can possibly expect the return of Darrell Arthur and Wilson Chandler to the Nuggets' rotation.)
Will we get any answers tonight? Let's watch.
And check out Michael Hoad's preview here, which has all the info you need before tip-off.