Raptors Prep For Playing At Altitude

Jonas Valanciunas, pictured with assistant coach Johnny Davis, will play his first game in Denver on Monday.

It’s not often that an NBA team is looking to lengthen a five-game, out-of-conference road trip, but that’s exactly what the Raptors have done in an effort to breathe a little easier in Denver.

The Raptors don’t face the Nuggets until Monday, but they left for the Mile High city immediately following their practice on Saturday at ACC. That allowed head coach Dwane Casey to hold another practice at Pepsi Center on Sunday and get his team somewhat used to the thinner air that’s provided the Nuggets with a distinct home court advantage.

Casey isn’t expecting one practice to get his players entirely prepared, but he’s hoping the familiarity of playing at altitude can help the Raptors as they try and end a nasty eight-game losing streak in Denver.

“I was told it takes four weeks to get acclimated to altitude with your body, but it does help in the fact that all at once, that burning sensation, it’s not the first time it hits,” said Casey. “To get at least one practice in and get to play in it and get used to it, at least it won’t be the first time you’ve felt that.”

Of particular interest for Casey will be how rookie centre Jonas Valanciunas deals with his first experience playing in Denver.

“He [Valanciunas] had mentioned to me that it’s his first experience with it, so it’s going to be curious and I’ve got to watch it as far as maybe giving him a quick substitution and let him get his second wind. Usually that’s how I manage substitutions at altitude, whether it’s here or in Utah – make sure you get him a quick blow and then come back in and  get that second wind. So it’s a new experience for him and I’ve just got to watch quickly how he adjusts to it.”

The Raptors tip-off against the Nuggets at 9 PM ET on Monday (TSN2, FAN590).

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