|-4 DEN (-109) @ Betamerica|
My 10* Situational Stunner Stunner is on the Den Nuggets at 9:10 ET.
The Toronto Raptors owned the league's second-best regular season record in 2018-19 and went on to win the NBA title behind Kawhi Leonard. Leonard left as a free agent (LA Clippers) prior to last season but the Raptors again owned the NBA's second-best regular season record (Bucks had the NBA's top record both seasons) and their .736 winning percentage (53-19) was even higher than with Kawhi the year before (58-19, .707). However, the current season has seen Toronto 'flop,' as they visit Denver to take on the Nuggets with a 26-36 mark. Toronto is tied with the Bulls as each team sits TWO games back of the No. 10 seed, the last team with an entry into the NBA's "Play-In" tournament (7-10 seeds play for the final two playoff spots, the 7th and 8th seeds).
The Nuggets earned the nickname "The Comeback Kids," as they overcame 3-1 deficits in last season's playoffs with series wins over the Jazz and then the Clippers. Denver pushed the Lakers to six games in the West Finals, before bowing out. Denver was expected to be among the top teams in the West again this season and the Nuggets haven't disappointed. The Nuggets lost 113-108 at New Orleans back on March 21 but on March 26, eked out a home win over the Pelicans. That victory sparked an EIGHT game winning streak. Back-to-back losses April 11 and 12 snapped that streak but the Nuggets will enter this contest having won SEVEN of eight to reach 41-21. The Nuggets are currently the West's No. 4 seed (FIVE games better than the 5th-seed Lakers) and just ONE game back of the Clippers (No. 3 seed).
Toronto' has the talent in PF Siakam (20.9-7.2-4.6), guards VanVleet (19.2-4.2-6.2) and Lowry (16.7-5.5-7.3) plus SF Anunoby (15.6 7 6.6) but with no home court (Raptors are playing their 'home' games in Tampa Bay) and a 10-20 record on the road, the 'whole' seems LESS that the sum of its parts. Denver center Jokic (26.3-10.9-8.7) is a leading MVP candidate and the Nuggets have continued to play well even after the loss of PG Murray (21.2-4.0-4.8). SF Porter was excellent in last year's bubble and is having a career season, averaging 18.7 & 7.6. The acquisition of Aaron Gordon (11.1 & 4.8) from Orlando has worked great, as although he's not scoring as much as he did with the Magic he's been a "great fit," with Denver going 14-3 in his 17 games.
The Nuggets lost Jamal Murray (see above) for the season two weeks ago plus then lost backup PG Monte Morris (10.1 & 3.2 APG) and now swingman Will Barton (12.7-4.0-3.2) to hamstring injuries. Through all this, Denver is 7-1 in its last eight games and 24-6 since Feb 27. Denver would sure like to earn that No. 3 seed, as the No. 4 seed will likely face the Lakers, with LBJ and A.D. both back. Motivation should NOT be lacking, after the Nuggets almost let one slip away last night against the Pelicans (held on for a two-point win), plus they will surely remember getting blown out back on March 24 at Tampa, 135-111! Lay the points.
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