Toronto at Denver
Time: 7 PM CT, NBA LP
Spread: TOR -3.5
This game between the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets, now, surprisingly features the clash between the top two teams in each respective conference. Toronto is 3.5-point favorites in the game, which will air at 7 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass. The over/under is set at 212.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
Odds c/o 5dimes
Newly acquired Kawhi Leonard brings a defensive presence that has helped the Raptors become a more dangerous team still. Not to be lost in Leonard’s brilliance has been the emergence of power forward Pascal Siakem, who is now showing all the signs of becoming a star. Over his last ten games, Siakem has averaged 16 points, 3.5 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the field. On the season, he is averaging 14.8 points, 2.6 assists, and 6.4 rebounds—illustrating that his rise over the past 10 games has been worth taking note of.
The Raptors are led by perhaps the best point guard in the East in Kyle Lowry, who is averaging 15 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game. Toronto’s top five players all have a PER of 19.6 or greater, with Lowry being the lowest at 19.6. Serge Ibaka has thrived after a couple down seasons, and Jonas Valanciunas has a new role as Toronto’s bench leader. The Raptors have superb depth to be able to bring Jonas off the bench, where he joins a second unit that includes promising second-year forward OG Annoy and sharpshooting guard Fred VanVleet. The hope in Toronto is that with LeBron James now in the Western Conference, the Raptors can make a meaningful playoff run that is not thwarted by the eight-time repeating Conference champion in James. Toronto has been knocking on the door for several seasons, but this might finally be its year.
The Denver Nuggets have won eight of its past 10 games to jump to the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Surprisingly, at 19-9 the Nuggets have to be considered a real contender as we have now passed the quarter-mark of the 2018-19 NBA season.
?Denver does it with a uniquely constructed offense that runs through its starting center Nikola Jokic. The highly coordinated big man is averaging 16.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, and a team-leading 7.1 assists while posting a team-best PER of 24.1. While Jokic is slow afoot, he does just about everything right when he has the ball in his hands. His distributive powers have helped the Nuggets really spread out its scoring load, with six players averaging 10 points or better on the season. It also allows shooting guard Jamal Murray to start at the point guard spot and function as a shoot-first 1. Murray leads the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game while dishing out 4.5 assists per night. Gary Harris is one of the league’s underrated 2-guards, and he ranks No. 2 on the team in scoring at 16.8 per contest.
The Nuggets have been without swingman Will Barton the majority of the season, which is no small subtraction. Barton was averaging 16.5 points per game in his two appearances but he suffered a right hip injury that required him to leave the game on a stretcher. There are no updates on his injury, but he was said to be sidelined for six weeks after sustaining it on Oct 21. His injury has opened up playing time for Malik Beasley, who has averaged 7.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 18 minutes a night while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three.
With the Nuggets cluster of guards and wingmen, the injury was a blessing in disguise for Beasley, who has mostly dwelled in the G-League since leaving Florida State as a one-and-done two years ago. The Nuggets still seem to be a team lacking balance, but perhaps that is just the beauty of its unorthodox style revolving around Jokic. Paul Millsap has seen his role decline because Trey Lyles is performing well in the Mile High City. Millsap is averaging just 13 points per game, but Lyles adds another 10; and doing the math, that is the same as any good full-time 4-man more or less.