Good to be in The East

If the Denver Nuggets were in the Eastern Conference, they would probably be able to rest Allen Iverson. If the Toronto Raptors were in the West, Chris Bosh may have already played a game this month.

With the Nuggets playing for their playoff livelihood, Iverson intends to stay in the lineup Friday night in a matchup with a Raptors team that has been slumping with Bosh sidelined.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Denver -9.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 219.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Denver -9.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Iverson, who was already playing with a fractured right ring finger, banged his right knee early in Wednesday night's game against Memphis and was held to eight points on 2-for-12 shooting in a 108-86 Denver win. Iverson was initially injured in a win over San Antonio last Friday, but hasn't missed any time.

"It's a place I've been before in my career, so I'll just deal with it," said Iverson, averaging a team-high 26.6 points and 7.2 assists.

Iverson's skills and experience are essential for Denver (38-26), which is in a battle to make the playoffs in the highly competitive West. The Nuggets are off to their best 64-game start in 20 years, but still trail Golden State for eighth place in the conference.

"It's now or never. We don't have a choice," said Denver forward Kenyon Martin, who had 23 points versus the Grizzlies. "It's either win now or be watching come April, and I don't think anyone around here wants to be watching. We've got too much talent and the guys have too much pride, so we're going to approach every game like it's our last. That's what it's all about."

The Nuggets can't afford to lose many games down the stretch if they hope to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year. They'll meet Toronto (34-30) in the first of two more home games before beginning a five-game road trip against teams in the East.

Denver's win over Memphis was its first in three games. The Nuggets will now try to extend a three-game home winning streak against the Raptors.

Toronto enters this contest having lost six of eight, allowing an average of 108.4 points. The Raptors, though, are a virtual lock to earn a playoff spot, even though they're four games worse than the Nuggets.

Toronto is in fifth place in the East, which has seven sub-.500 teams battling for the conference's final three playoff spots. That has allowed the Raptors to continue to rest Bosh, who tops the team with 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds a contest.

Bosh, who has missed seven straight games due to a sore right knee, is expected to return sometime within the next three games. He hasn't played since a loss to Indiana on Feb. 29.

The Raptors have lost the first two games of a five-game road trip, including a 117-106 defeat to Golden State on Wednesday night.

If Toronto had the same record but was in the West, it would have a tough time making a playoff push. But the Raptors are in contention for home-court advantage in the first round, thanks partly to their depth at point guard.

T.J. Ford has lost the starting point guard spot to Jose Calderon, but has led Toronto in scoring each of the last two games. He has 51 points over that stretch.

Ford averaged 20.0 points and 16.0 assists while shooting 61.5 percent from the field in two games against Denver last season. The Raptors and Nuggets split those two contests.

They will meet again in Toronto on March 23.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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