The Toronto Raptors are back home against the Golden State Warriors, looking to pay them back for the tail kicking they took in their last meeting in the Bay Area. The Raptors (37-20) are going through a rough patch, losing their last two of their three; in those two losses, after winning for the majority of the game, giving it away in the last six-eight minutes of play. The Warriors (44-11) are also coming off a tail kicking in Cleveland, losing both their mojo and their composure. It will be an interesting story to see which team is hungrier to get back onto a winning track.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have both been struggling since the all-star break, and they’ve recognized that themselves, saying their games have been “trash.” The two all-star players are shooting in-efficiently from the field, and have lost out on the aggressiveness they developed before the break; it’s looking more and more like they’ve gotten comfortable.
Tonight is absolutely not the game for a struggle fest by DeMar and Kyle, as arguably the best back-court in the East take on the best back-court in the West, in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Big test not only for the team, but for the individual match-ups.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
1. Play Physical, Play Big.
The Warriors are already a physical team with their big bodies on the inside, and the length they possess on the wings. However, demonstrated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in their recent meeting, the Cavaliers forced them into bad positions by being extra pressuring defensively, and hitting bodies as they came through the paint. The Raptors must play bigger than their size, and show that they are no nonsense as players come through the paint. Curry and Thompson are players bothered by physicality, and their bigs will lose composure if calls aren’t going there way; force that upon them.
Both teams play at a fast pace, but the Warriors thrive off the run-and-gun game more than the Raptors do. They’re absolutely terrific in the open court, as the Warriors possess great passers in guys like Curry, Andre Iguodala, and they’re unbelievably lethal from pulling up on the arch. Play the half-court style game, and force the Warriors to work against a set defence; that’s where they’ve struggled in some when their shots aren’t falling, or aren’t getting looks like they would on the open court.
3. Grind Through It
The Raptors have done a solid job in their ability to fight adversity throughout games, however, this Golden State team is incredibly deadly, and can win a game in five or six minutes by creating highlight plays and made shots from the perimeter. The Raps have to find a way to counter major runs they go through, which is best done by getting to the free-throw line, attacking the basket, creating turnovers, and playing with confidence. Throw out the last couple games, and focus what got you those impressive wins before going into the all-star break.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
With the back-court battle being such a focus this evening, it’ll be about who can breakthrough and affect a game on the inside, scoring in the paint, and rebounding. JV has been having an impressive season, improving on almost every facet of the game, and developing signs of dominance as a defensive anchor for this team. With guys like David Lee, and Andrew Bogut to worry about, Valanciunas will need to be fed in the post and off pick-and-roll, to attack those big guys and get them in foul trouble, or at least to work defensively.