The Golden State Warriors visit the Air Canada Centre bearing the highly unofficial crown of Most Surprisingly Successful Team in the NBA. By contrast, the Toronto Raptors are the undisputed owners of the Most Close Losses in the Fewest Number of Games, a title we’d cheerfully surrender.
The Warriors have been out of contention for decades, having been cursed by poor management and worse luck. However, they have made some excellent draft choices recently (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes) and mixed in some quality veterans (David Lee, Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson) to blend a well-balanced team which I think will be playoff-bound this season and for many to come. Many pundits believed second-year coach Mark Jackson would be over his head in crafting a winner, particularly in the prolonged absence of Andrew Bogut. Jackson’s team is like Jackson the player was; smart and relentless, and he’s silenced his doubters. Bogut, whose career has been so abbreviated by injuries he’s the phantom of the NBA, is supposed to return before the playoffs. Assuming he does, and can perform at 80% of his capability, this team will be a dark-horse contender for the Western Conference title.
This team has a number of Toronto connections. Curry, a scrawny guard with otherworldy shooting skills from deep, wanted to be a Rap like his father, Dell. Stephen lived in the city while Dear Old Dad, whom I remember fondly, wore the purple and pinstripes. He was a past master of the catch-and-shoot 3-ball. Coach Jackson was Dell’s teammate for a portion of the ’00-’01 season. Jarrett Jack was a Rap for a while, until his turnover rate proved too much to tolerate and he was traded to New Orleans.
Back to the present day – the Warriors rely on their precocious guards for much of their offense. Thompson played in obscurity at Washington State, but is a secret no more, averaging 16 points per game in his second season. Oddly enough, his father Mychal also played in the NBA. Curry was just named to the All-Star team. Lee has recharged his career after escaping from Manhattan, and will give our front line no end of difficult with his energy. Barnes, who was drafted just ahead of our Terrence Ross, was thrust into the starting lineup and has performed capably, if not brilliantly. Festus Ezeli, a giant African rookie, plays tough defense but can’t contribute in the other direction.
With Jack coming off the bench, the Warriors can compete all 48 minutes. The Raps will need their A game to fend off Golden State by a 106 – 103 score.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.