The Toronto Raptors won a nail biter Monday night with a 105-102 victory over the Denver Nuggets to improve to 2-1 on the season. The all-star backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan led the way with a combined 62 points. This would mark DeRozan’s 3rd straight game of the season with 30+ points. Patrick Patterson also set the tone on the defensive end, coming off the bench to record 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. This was a feel good win for the Raptors who had lost both games to the Nuggets last season. Despite holding a 17 point lead early on, the Nuggets took control late in the game and were on top by 6 points. Lowry, who had struggled early on, picked the right time to take over and lead his team to victory. For the Nuggets, Jusuf Nurkic led the way with 13 points and 18 rebounds while Gallinari, Barton, and Mudiay all contributed 16 points. Unfortunately for Denver, Barton had to leave the game with an ankle sprain.
It was a solid home-stand for the Raptors to begin the season. Now they will head to Washington to take on John Wall and the Wizards. This will be the first road game for the Toronto Raptors and the home opener for the Washington Wizards. The Wizards’ season is off to a frustrating start after going 0-2 on the road including an Overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night. This is a squad who is seeking redemption after missing last season’s playoffs with a 41-41 record. Following the conclusion of the regular season, the Wizards fired Randy Wittman and hired former Oklahoma City Head Coach Scott Brooks to take over. Bradley Beal missed 27 games last year and despite rumours of conflict with fellow guard John Wall, Beal re-signed with the Wizards on a 5 year, $130 million deal. These two young men remain the focal point of the Wizards offence and the team will go as far as these two men take them.
The Raptors will never forget their playoff series with the Wizards during the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Despite sweeping the season series and heading into the playoffs with home court advantage, the Wizards dominated the Raptors en route to a first round sweep. Heading into the 2015-2016 season, both teams were ranked closely and were expected to finish the season with similar records. This was certainly not the case. While the Wizards missed the playoffs, the Raptors set a franchise record in wins and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. To make things sweeter for the Raptors and their fans, they also swept the Washington Wizards during the regular season including a buzzer beating game winning 3 from the newly acquired Cory Joseph.
There will be many key match-ups in tonight’s game. The most important being the battle between the 2 teams’ starting backcourt. John Wall and Kyle Lowry remain 2 of the premiere point guards in the Eastern Conference and it is always exciting watching them go head to head. Last season Wall averaged career highs with 19.9 points, 10.2 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game en route to his 3rd straight all-star season. Kyle Lowry also averaged career highs with 21.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals en route to his first selection on an All-NBA Team. Additionally, both Bradley Beal and DeMar DeRozan are capable of taking over games offensively. Beal averaged 23.4 points during the playoffs two seasons ago while DeRozan is coming off a season where he averaged a career high 23.5 points per game. If there’s one certain advantage that Lowry/DeRozan have over Wall/Beal, it’s that they are simply best friends on and off the court (contrary to rumours between Wall and Beal).
The front court production will also play a factor in deciding tonight’s winner. The Wizards now have a full season with Markieff Morris (a player that was rumourred to potentially be traded to the Raptors last season) and still have center Marcin Gortat. In addition, they added Toronto native Andrew Nicholson to come off the bench and spread the floor with his long range offence. For the Raptors, they remain committed to getting Jonas Valancuinas his touches down low. Patrick Patterson remains a spark plug off the bench while rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl appear comfortable with their roles of providing energy and crashing the boards.
The game will top off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, live at the Verizon Center!