The Toronto Raptors not only the hottest team in the East but they are also the best team in the league right now, grasping a 20-4 record. The only teams they have fallen to were the Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons, and Boston Celtics. They will look grab their ninth straight victory as they host the Denver Nuggets. If they do so, this will tie their all-time longest winning streak which they set last season.
The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, are hoping to earn their sixth straight win, coming fresh off of a close 113-112 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nuggets and the Raptors have seen each other a grand total of 44 times in the past as the Nuggets won 26 games while the Raptors were kept to just 18 games. This game will mark the first of two times that these two ball clubs will face each other during this season. Last season, these teams split the season series at one apiece. Both teams will look to set the tone tonight.
-Will Barton (hip/core; 16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 57.1 FG%, 55.6 3P%, 100.0 FT%)
-Michael Porter (back)
-Isaiah Thomas (hip)
-Jarred Vanderbilt (foot)
-Brandon Goodwin (coach’s decision)
-Tyler Lydon (coach’s decision; 2.3 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 0.0 APG, 75.0 FG%, 75.0 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
-DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (G-League; 1.2 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 30.0 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
-Thomas Welsh (G-League; 1.3 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 66.7 FG%, 50.0 3P%)
-Lorenzo Brown (coach’s decision; 2.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 37.8 FG%, 22.7 3P%, 100.0 FT%)
-Greg Monroe (coach’s decision; 3.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 51.5 FG%, 0.0 3P%, 50.0 FT%)
-Malachi Richardson (coach’s decision; 1.3 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.0 APG, 27.8 FG%, 26.7 3P%, 66.7 FT%)
-Jordon Loyd (G-League; 4.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 100.0 FG%, 100.0 3P%, 100.0 FT%)
-Norman Powell (shoulder; 5.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.9 APG, 47.6 FG%, 40.9 3P%, 75.0 FT%)
-Chris Boucher (G-League; 4.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.0 APG, 50.0 FG%, 25.0 3P%, 66.7 FT%)
The Denver Nuggets would have complete control in the first half as they shot fifty percent from the field, limiting the home team to forty-three percent. Nikola Jokic chalked up fourteen points while grabbing five rebounds and dishing off ten assists. Jamal Murray helped out with twelve points as he was able to drill two three-pointers in the process. Juan Hernangomez earned himself seven points which included a trey early in the first period. Malik Beasley played the most minutes off the bench as he had eight points including two three-pointers in the second quarter.
As for the Canada team, former San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard got hot for sixteen points on sixty percent shooting. He also had four defensive rebounds and two assists while Pascal Siakam chipped in eight points. Kyle Lowry, who is averaging fifteen points a game this season, was held scoreless in the eighteen minutes that he played. Danny Green had a three-pointer early in the first quarter while Serge Ibaka collected five points, two rebounds, one assist, and one block. Jonas Valanciunas played ten minutes off the bench as he scored six points while the Nuggets went into halftime with a commanding 59 to 47 lead.
The best team in the league would bounce back, though, as they sparked a 56 to 47 run, shooting forty-nine percent from the field. During that run, Leonard added eleven more points to his scoring total, including a three-pointer midway through the third period. Ibaka earned ten more points, along with three defensive rebounds and one assist. Lowry would still struggle as he was only able to hit a three-pointer and two free throws, ending the game with five points. Fred VanVleet played the most minutes off the bench but was kept scoreless.
On the other end of the court, both Murray and Jokic scored nine points each. Murray would go on to collect three defensive rebounds and three assists while Nikola Jokic had six rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Paul Millsap would only have two points, ending the game with six total. Beasley played fourteen minutes off the bench as he had seven points which held a three-pointer late in the fourth quarter.
With only forty-one seconds left, the Raptors would have a 101-100 lead. Nikola Jokic knocked down a twelve-foot jump shot with forty seconds left to put the Denver team up by one. After a missed two-pointer and a missed three-pointer by Danny Green, the Raptors would have no choice but to foul after Juan Hernangomez grabs the defensive rebound. He would make his second free throw after missing the first one, giving the visiting team a 103-101 lead.
Coming out of a timeout with only seven seconds left in regulation, Kawhi Leonard would drill a jump shot to tie the game up at 103 apiece. After a timeout called by the Nuggets, Serge Ibaka ended up committing a costly foul away from the ball, sending Jokic to the charity stripe. He was able to knock down his free-throw, giving them another lead. Once they got the ball back, Leonard would commit the intentional foul, sending Nikola Jokic right back to the line. He was able to knock down both of his free throws. With time running out, Kyle Lowry would be forced to attempt a pull-up three-pointer but would not make it as the Denver Nuggets hold on to be the Toronto Raptors, 106 to 103.
Nikola Jokic finished the competition with twenty-three points, eleven rebounds, fifteen assists, and two steals while Malik Beasley had fifteen points, two rebounds, and one assist off the bench. Kawhi Leonard had twenty-seven points, eight rebounds, and two assists while Delon Wright scored nine points off the bench, as well grabbing three rebounds, dishing off two assists, and committing two steals.
The Denver Nuggets will travel down to Florida to take on Nikola Vucevic (21.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 55.3 FG%, 40.9 3P%) and the Orlando Magic (11-12) on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. This will mark the second and final time that these teams will see each other this season. The last time they played each other was on November 23 when the Nuggets handed the Orlando team a 112 to 87 loss. During that game, Trey Lyles scored twenty-two points, grabbed two rebounds, and dished off one assist while Terrence Ross finished with eighteen points and one assist.
The Toronto Raptors will host Joel Embiid (27.0 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 46.8 FG%, 30.1 3P%) and the Philadelphia 76ers (17-8) on Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. The matchup will mark the second of four times that these two teams will meet up this season. The last time they saw each other was on October 30 when the Canada team escaped with a 129-112 win. Kawhi Leonard finished that game with thirty-one points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals while Joel Embiid had thirty-one points, eleven rebounds, four assists, and one block.