They will need more from Kyle Lowry who has struggled in the opening two games and put too much pressure on DeMar DeRozan who has been doing really well. It is still early in the season and no one in this organisation needs to panic but the Raptors will have seen there is still some work to do to get closer to the Cavaliers and the importance of having their best players firing at the same time when they do play the best teams in the East.
On Monday they take on a team from the Western Conference as the Denver Nuggets come to town having won two of their last three games in Toronto. Denver had a disappointing loss on Saturday night to the Portland Trail Blazers at home but the roster might be back to full strength for this game and there were signs that a young team will be a tough out for anyone they face.
This does feel like it is a game that is coming at a tough time for Toronto between the Cleveland game and then a first road game at Washington. The Nuggets are travelling to Toronto, but have a few days off before they play again so can put their all into this one and I think they have the players that can crash the boards and make life tough for Toronto.
The concern has to be the Defensive side of the court where Denver have struggled in their opening two games, but I like the spot for the Nuggets and will take the points.
Chicago Bulls @ Brooklyn Nets – 23:30 at Barclays Center
A new look Chicago Bulls team have played really well with the ball being shared around amongst the top players on the roster. It was even more encouraging in the win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday as Chicago actually opened the door for Doug McDermott to have the most shots which is remarkable considering the likes of Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade on the roster.
That bodes well for the Bulls going forward, but it will be interesting to see how they respond to the first road game of the season. It is a tough spot for the Bulls having a big game at the Boston Celtics to come next and now facing what was considered to be one of the weaker teams in the NBA, but the Brooklyn Nets have played well enough in their opening three games to be a threat here.
The Nets have a 1-2 record, but they have covered the spread in each game as the underdog as they have remained competitive throughout. It might be a little more difficult against the Bulls because Brooklyn rely on the three point shot to open up, but Chicago have actually defended the perimeter very well.
Focus should be there knowing how competitive Brooklyn have been and Chicago were also able to give their starters plenty of rest in the blow out win over the Indiana Pacers. Winning the rebound battle is going to be important for Chicago and I think the performances of the Nets to open the season will see Chicago come out and play with plenty of focus on the task at hand and not look ahead to the visit to Boston. I will take the Bulls to win this one and cover the spread.
Sacramento Kings @ Atlanta Hawks – 23:30 at Phillips Center
The DeMarcus Cousins versus Dwight Howard match up is going to be a huge part of this Sacramento Kings visit to the Atlanta Hawks with both teams in good form to open the season. The Hawks have moved on from Al Horford and Jeff Teague, but have not missed a beat with easy wins over Washington and Philadelphia, while the Kings have a new Head Coach who has helped them go 2-1 ahead of this five game road trip.
How the Kings do on the road may determine whether they are good enough to earn a surprising Play Off place at the end of this season. Keeping Cousins focused and happy is also important while Sacramento have a solid complement to the big man in Rudy Gay who has played well.
It will be a big challenge at the Atlanta Hawks where the Kings have lost nine in a row and the Hawks can point to their strong Defensive performances in the first two games which has helped them pull clear of opponents. They have also been strong on the glass, although that will be tested by Cousins and the Kings on Halloween.
If the Hawks can somehow still win the rebounding battle by keeping Howard out of foul trouble, I do think they can take advantage of their early schedule to move to 3-0. Atlanta have dominated the Kings at home in recent seasons as they have covered in their last four at home against them and I like the Hawks to continue that run here
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