Preview: Raptors at Nuggets
The Toronto Raptors’ hopes of a perfect four-game road trip came to an end at Portland on Friday, but they could still head home with a winning record on the excursion. The Raptors will try to finish on a high note when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in a battle of conference leaders.
Toronto, which sits atop the Eastern Conference and owns the best record in the NBA at 23-8, breezed by the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors on the first two stops of the trip before falling at the Trail Blazers 128-122 on Friday. Star forward Kawhi Leonard, who sat out the first two games of the trip with a hip injury, returned to the lineup at Portland but All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry (thigh) missed the game and is day-to-day. The Nuggets are the improbable leaders of a tightly-packed Western Conference and are winners of five straight at home after knocking off Memphis and Oklahoma City to begin the current four-game stand. Denver is dealing with its own injury issues and was without two starters – power forward Paul Millsap (toe) and guard Gary Harris Jr. (hip) – in Friday’s 109-98 triumph over the Thunder.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TSN2 (Toronto), Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (23-8): Toronto already lost center Jonas Valanciunas for at least four weeks due to a thumb injury on the trip and watched power forward Pascal Siakam leave Friday’s contest with a sore back after coming down on his tailbone in a fall. Siakam, who is enjoying a breakout campaign while averaging a career-best 14.4 points, is questionable for Sunday along with Lowry. Fred VanVleet started at point guard in place of Lowry on Friday and scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting while handing out eight assists.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (19-9): Denver heaps more responsibility on center Nikola Jokic when someone goes down and he continues to deliver. The 23-year-old came up an assist shy of a triple-double in his fourth consecutive double-double on Friday, collecting 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 15 rebounds and nine assists while adding three steals to a defensive effort that held Oklahoma City to 41.1 percent from the floor. Jokic got some help on the outside from small forward Torrey Craig, who scored a career-high 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
1. Nuggets SG Nick Young made his team debut on Friday after being signed earlier in the week and scored six points in nine minutes off the bench.
2. Raptors SG Danny Green went 5-of-7 from 3-point range en route to a season-high 19 points on Friday.
3. Jokic collected 23 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in a 106-103 win at Toronto on Dec. 3.