Golden State Warriors at Raptors: Preview and 3 keys to Victory


The Warriors are here for the season’s most anticipated matchup. Is this game likely to be a blowout, or do the Raptors have a chance?

The Golden State Warriors hit the Air Canada Centre in the midst of a lengthy road trip, and the best start in NBA history. The Toronto Raptors face a team which hasn’t lost in 20 games (23 if you add their final three against Cleveland to nail down last season’s championship) and frequently sits down its best players in Q4.

The conversation has to begin with the incomparable Stephen Curry, who’s already on my short list of the best pure shooters of all time. But he’s so much more than a bomber with an inhumanly quick release and absurd accuracy. Curry passes, defends, brings the ball up the floor…I note with amusement discussions about whether Curry can repeat as MVP while winning the Most Improved Player award. That’s not a crazy thought.

November 17, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) fights for the rebound with Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

His supporting cast can play with anyone. Klay Thompson has matured into a well-rounded contributor on both ends of the floor. Mr. Everything, Draymond Green, has been called one of the league’s 10 best players by Jerry West [20-second timeout: West is on my shooters’ short list, along with Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe, Pistol Pete Maravich and Stephen’s father.] Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes (note: Barnes is sidelined with an ankle problem, so Brandon Rush will start) round out a speedy, ball-hawking starting five. The Warriors utilize perhaps the league’s most fungible roster – they will destroy you playing small ball, and can bring in Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli if you want to get big and nasty.

I’m always partial to teams and coaches which can turn marginal talents into contributors. The Warriors didn’t pay much for Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston or Marreese Speights, all of whom are helping off the bench.

The Warriors have won their games by an average margin of 15.4 points, by far the largest in the league. The Raptors gave the Dubs (woeful nickname – I’m using it just this once) a scare in their first meeting a few weeks ago, actually taking a lead in the fourth quarter before bowing by five.

OK, our team can give the leaders a game, but can the Raptors win? Maybe, if they…:

  1. …give off to a decent start. I’m sure we’re all sick of seeing the Raptors down by a dozen before the first quarter is half over. Sooner or later, the shots have to start dropping early.
  2. …get in the Warriors’ faces on the perimeter. Against some teams, the best way to defend is by sagging, to take away the driving lanes. Not these guys – they lead the league in 3-point attempts, makes and percentage (43.3!! – that’s unfair). I’d rather give up a deuce at the rim than a trey outside.
  3. …accept that this game might be a shootout. Coach Casey, I’m looking at you. While I applaud the Raptors’ defensive improvement, you’re going to have to let your scorers lead the way here. I think James Johnson needs some serious minutes, as I believe he can post up his man effectively, particularly when they are going small. And how about some drive and dish with Lucas Nogueira?

Having sat through dismal losses against Phoenix and Denver, I should be skeptical. What the heck, let’s step out: Toronto 113 – Golden State 108.