Friday, March 24, 2023
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NBA Preview: Toronto Raptors (32-33) at Denver Nuggets (45-19)

The Eastern Conference playoff race is so tightly contested that a single game’s outcome can alter a team’s fortunes.

The Toronto Raptors, who are in the middle of the play-in bracket with 17 games remaining in the regular season, gained a significant advantage by defeating Washington on the road on Saturday, 116-109.

On a difficult five-game road trip that began with two games against the Wizards and ends with three games remaining, Toronto has won nine of its last 12 games. A trip to Denver to play the Nuggets on Monday night does not make the competition any easier.

The Raptors will face the best NBA home team with some insider knowledge. Will Barton, who was traded to Washington over the summer after seven seasons with Denver, was signed.

He signed with Toronto on Tuesday after being acquired by the Wizards and has only appeared in three games with his new team.

This season, the Raptors have struggled at home, but recently have performed better on the road. They won at Memphis last month and are 4-2 in their last six games.

Their most recent game required overtime, which is not good for their legs when playing in thin air and against a team that has only lost once at home since Dec. 6 and is trying to improve its grip on the Western Conference’s top seed.

The Nuggets are coming off a 113-97 victory over the Grizzlies, extending their lead over Memphis to six games, and have won three straight and seven of their last eight games.

Denver is excited to be the best team in the West, which means it will have home court advantage for the first three rounds. Since joining the NBA, the Nuggets have never reached the conference finals, and their 29-4 record at Ball Arena demonstrates how difficult they are to beat there.

On Friday night, the Grizzlies attempted physical contact with Denver to disrupt the high-scoring offense, but it did not slow them down; In response, the Nuggets only engaged in physical play.

It also helps when Nikola Jokic has a triple-double, which he has done in 25 games this year and in four of the last five games. When he reaches that point, Denver is unbeaten this year.

This year, Jokic is averaging a triple-double, putting him in the running to be named league MVP for the third year in a row.

Zeke Nnaji is the only rotation player who is not available, so the Nuggets are relatively healthy. He has a right shoulder injury, which the team said would be looked at again in two weeks.

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