Feb 28, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after a three point shoot in the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors (36-23) at Toronto Raptors (32-26): 3 keys to a clean slate

Feb 24, 2014; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings (7) dribbles the ball as Golden State Warriors center Jermaine O

The Golden State Warriors play the Toronto Raptors in a rare 4:00PM tipoff game today, and the home team shouldn’t need any fiery speeches from their coach as motivation. The Raps and their fans remember all too well the meltdown in Oakland on December 3, in which Toronto was outscored 42-15 in Q4 to lose a game they led by 27 in Q3. That weekend, Rudy Gay became a King, and the Raps restarted their season.

The Warriors are playing their fourth of six straight road games, and have won two already, including an evisceration of the Knicks on Friday night. GSW’s brilliant point guard, Stephen Curry, racked up a triple-double in New York, and is happy to play Toronto, a team he has averaged more points against (27.3) than any other. Here’s hoping Terrence Ross’s ankle tweak is healed sufficiently to allow him to guard Curry. The Raps will have to pick their poison defensively, as shooting guard Klay Thompson will happily fire away from anywhere. He is #3 and Curry is #1 in made 3-balls; Curry also leads in assists per game. Both are over 40% from distance this season. Be afraid – be very afraid.

The Warriors aren’t missing much up front either. Power forward David Lee more than makes up for a lack of bulk with speed and timing. He can hit mid-range jump shots all day, or will duck inside if guarded tightly. Veteran small forward Andre Iguodala scores enough to be dangerous, and will give DeMar DeRozan all he can handle defensively. At centre is Andrew Bogut, who’s been healthy for what seems to be the first team in a lengthy career. He’s their rebounding and shot-blocking leader, and has some nice moves underneath the basket when needed.

The Warriors’ second unit features a rejuvenated Jermaine O’Neal, veteran guard Steve Blake and talented young shooter Harrison Barnes. In short, they don’t lose much when the starters get a rest.

The Raps are in tough here, but can win if:

  • Jonas Valanciunas holds Bogut to a draw. I’m not optimistic about this, as Marcin Gortat schooled JV on Thursday night, but we must hope he learned from that experience.
  • Kyle Lowry is healthy enough to bother Curry. While I called for TRoss to cover Curry, I realize that’s impractical. Kyle has to be in someone’s face, and it’s hard for me to see him on the much taller and bulkier Thompson. Can Kyle try to pick Curry’s pocket before half-court?
  • all our rotation players contribute offensively. We need points from John Salmons and Patrick Patterson. Greivis Vasquez should be able to find space against an often sluggish Warrior defense – will he hit?

Predicting a winner here is difficult enough, and rendered more so by the fact that Lowry, Ross and Amir Johnson are all tiptoeing around on gimpy ankles. If our guys are at full power, we can outscore them, but I think I’m dreaming in Technicolour. Warriors win 108-99.

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