Previewing Sunday's Nuggets-Raptors Heavyweight Matchup

Both teams seek to get back on track

Keith Allison, Flickr
  • The Denver Nuggets will face the Toronto Raptors for the first time this season on Sunday afternoon in Denver. Both teams would be seeded second in their respective conferences if the regular season ended today. While the Nuggets and Raptors are clearly elite, both teams have struggled coming out of the All-Star break. Both teams have lost two of their four games since action resumed.

  • Neither team has performed particularly well ATS against other winning teams. The Nuggets are 11-11 ATS while the Raptors are 10-13 ATS against teams currently with a winning percentage of over .500. At home, the Nuggets are 6-6 ATS against teams with winning records. On the road, the Raptors are 6-6 ATS against teams with winning records. 

  • The Nuggets and Raptors play very contrasting styles. The Raptors rely heavily on the three-point shot and forcing turnovers to generate offense. The Nuggets’ offense depends on points in the paint and not turning the ball over.

  • Even though the Nuggets and Raptors have similar win-loss records, their point differentials are dramatically different. Denver wins on average by 3.3 points while Toronto wins on average by 6.7 points. 

Post All-Star Break Blues

The Nuggets and Raptors arrive at this contest with sparkling win-loss records of 40-19 and 42-17, respectively. However, both teams have stumbled out of the All-Star break. The Nuggets have lost two of their four post-break games, with both losses coming by double-digits. Denver’s last defeat was an embarrassing 29-point defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night on national television. The Raptors have also lost two of their four post-break games, with both losses occurring at home. Toronto’s last defeat came at the hands of the moribund Charlotte Hornets.

The Nuggets and Raptors are struggling at the absolute worst time. The Clippers and Boston Celtics are now tied in the loss column with the Nuggets and Raptors, respectively, for seeding in their respective conferences. Toronto and Denver will be in desperate need of a victory this Sunday.

Betting on the Nuggets or Raptors against winning teams has not been a particularly profitable investment this season. The Nuggets are 11-11 ATS while the Raptors are 10-13 ATS against teams with a current winning percentage of over .500. The Nuggets are 6-6 ATS at home against such teams while the Raptors are 6-6 ATS on the road against such teams.

While both teams have struggled against the spread against winning teams, the Raptors have covered four of their last six games against teams with a winning percentage of over .500. The Nuggets have lost outright and failed to cover in their last three games against teams with a winning percentage of over .500.

Differences Between the Teams

The Nuggets and Raptors win in dramatically different ways. The Nuggets play at the second-slowest pace in the NBA but still maintain a top-10 offensive rating. Denver ranks in the top-10 in terms of the percentage of their offense generated from points in the paint and mid-range jump shots and surrender the seventh-fewest turnovers per game. Denver also allows the eighth-fewest three-point field goals per game defensively.

By contrast, the Raptors hit the fifth most three-point field goals per game. Toronto ranks second in terms of the percentage of their offense that comes from opponent turnovers. The Raptors have the second-best defensive rating in the NBA and surrender the second-fewest points in the paint per game.

Another significant difference between the Nuggets and Raptors is their point differential. The Nuggets’ win margin of 3.3 points is over four points lower than the Raptors’ win margin of 6.7 points. This disparity in point differential shows that the Nuggets have a tendency to play close games when they win. 17 of Denver’s 40 wins have come by seven or fewer points.

Oddsmakers will likely list the Nuggets as the favorites in their Sunday home meeting with the Raptors. Bettors who believe that the Nuggets will defeat the Raptors will also need to consider the likelihood of a backdoor cover before placing a wager on Denver. The Nuggets have failed to cover the spread in 13 of their 40 victories. 

Injury Concerns

Both teams have overcome injuries that required core members of their rotations to sit out a significant number of games. Barton, Harris, and Murray have missed a combined 26 games for the Nuggets while Ibaka, VanVleet, Siakim, and Lowry have missed a combined 46 games for the Raptors. However, the Raptors’ core has been able to play together in 15 of Toronto’s last 18 games while the Nuggets’ core has been limited to playing together in just four of Denver’s last 18 games.

Bettors may want to wait for a clean injury report from the Raptors before making a decision on a side in this game. The Raptors announced that VanVleet and Ibaka would not play in Toronto’s game against the Hornets just an hour and a half before tip-off on Friday. VanVleet and Ibaka are currently listed as questionable for the game with the Nuggets.