The Toronto Raptors play the first game of their Western Conference road trip against the slumping Golden State Warriors tonight. The boys from the bay have been treading water for many seasons, but appeared until recently to be playoff-bound. Their coach, Mark Jackson, is a former Rap, as is guard Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry’s father. The young, skinny point guard takes after Dear Old Dad in his ability to toss in 3-balls from all over the court. He recently drained 11 against the New York Knicks, as part of a 54-point outburst. Tellingly, the highest-scoring game by an individual this season wasn’t enough to grab a victory for the Warriors, who have won just 3 times in their last 13 tries.
How can the Raps extend the Warriors misery?
- Score in the paint – The Warriors are not a strong defensive team. Their rookie centre, Festus Ezeli, is trying to learn on the fly, no small feat in the unforgiving NBA. Can Jonas Valanciunas do some damage in the low post? Their big men will need to be aggressively pinned by ours, allowing DeMar DeRozan and our other swingmen to attack the basket. Andrew Bogut, the Warriors’ usual starting centre, won’t dress due to back spasms, so getting their front court in foul trouble will be very helpful.
- Contain Curry (somehow) – This fellow leads the league in 3-balls made, and he’s third in shooting percentage from distance. If I were coach Dwane Casey, I’d have either Landry Fields or Alan Anderson in Curry’s face the second the Warriors step over the timeline, with the goal of denying him a return pass should he give up the ball in the half-court.
- Keep David Lee off the boards – Lee, a hyperactive power forward who leads the NBA in double-doubles, is neither particularly tall nor strong. He gets his rebounds with speed and positioning, but an attentive defender like Amir Johnson should be able to contain him. What will happen when Amir sits is anyone’s guess.
Rudy Gay’s back spasms continue, so his playing status is problematic. If Andrea Bargnani starts in his place, will he finally rediscover something resembling an offensive game? Will the Warriors suffer from first-home-game-back-after-long-road-trip syndrome? Let’s hope so, and call for a 107-102 Raps victory.
Brian Boake is a co-editor 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.