Toronto Raptors [29-11] vs Golden State Warriors [34-9]: Preview and three keys

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 25: Kevin Durant
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 25: Kevin Durant /

The Toronto Raptors welcome the defending NBA Champion, Golden State Warriors, on Saturday night. Will they rise up to the occasion, or let the Warriors continue their recent hot-streak?

With a record of 15-and-2 the Toronto Raptors have been nearly unbeatable at home this season. Saturday night, however, offers the most demanding challenge yet . The defending champion Golden State Warriors come into the Air Canada Centre playing better than ever, winners of six of their last seven.

When Golden State is hitting on all cylinders they are nearly impossible to stop. The team deploys a bevy of shooters, ball-handlers, and play-makers. They space teams out and attack them at all angles, knowing your weak-spots are greater than theirs.

One difference between this year’s Warriors team and teams of the past, is their inability to play small this season. In previous years, perhaps the most feared lineup in all of sports was the Warriors “death lineup”, when Andre Iguodala subbed into their starting lineup and Draymond Green shifted down to center.

OAKLAND, CA – OCTOBER 25: Kevin Durant
OAKLAND, CA – OCTOBER 25: Kevin Durant /

This season, in 58 minutes, that lineup has a Netrtg of -8.6. That is a huge drop-off when you consider last season that same lineup had a Netrtg of +23.9.

Although the Warriors might not have had as much success going small as in previous seasons, expect this game to be played at a blistering pace. The Warriors are currently ranked 4th in pace, averaging 102.42 possessions per game, while the previously slow-paced Raptors have played at the 9th fastest pace this season.

The good news for the Raptors is Golden State is playing on the second night of a road back-to-back. According to BPI, the game is essentially a toss-up with the Raptors having  49.8-percent chance of victory. The Raptors will look to take advantage of this and pick-up a win against an NBA heavy-weight.

Three Keys to Victory

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  1. Punish Zaza in the pick-and-roll: The largest mismatch the Raptors have in this game is Jonas Valanciunas. However, Zaza Pachulia is a stout post defender. The Raptors will need to include him in many pick-and-rolls in order to attack him on the defensive end.
  2. Win the battle on the glass: The Warriors are an excellent defensive team. Their largest flaw is rebounding. The Warriors currently rank 21st in opponent offensive rebound %, meaning the Raptors will have some opportunities for second chance points.
  3. Tire them out: The Warriors are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. The Raptors are even deeper. Combine that with the Warriors playing on the second night of a back-to-back and there is a real opportunity to wear the Warriors down.

Next: Review of Raptors after 40 games

Next the Raptors will face off against the Philadelphia 76ers, for a 1:00 PM ET, matinée tip-off on Martin Luther King Day.