The Toronto Raptors (16-28) play host to the Golden State Warriors (26-17) for the first and only time this season.
Be wary Raptors fans, this isn’t the same Warriors team of years past; this team is efficient, plays a great inside-outside game and is committed defensively. It all starts and ends with their second year coach, Mark Jackson.
I admit I was one of the many critics when coach Jackson was hired. I thought his inexperience would have shown and it sure did last year. But coach Jackson has gotten his to commit and both ends and their records show it. Oh, and all this is happening without bigman Andrew Bogut (who might make a sighting tonight for a new minutes).
The Warriors are an NBA championship contender. And yes, you may quote me on that and hold me to it.
The Cage’s 5 Keys to the Game:
1. Stephen Curry
He is on an absolute tear throughout the NBA. He was snubbed form the all-star game. He has one of the purest jump shots in the game. He can shoot off screens, off the dribble and in traffic. Simply put, he must be stopped. Curry is shooting a torrid 45% from three-point range and is averaging four three-pointers made in his last five contests.
2. David Lee
Although Curry was snubbed from the game, Lee wasn’t. The NBA leader in doubles-doubles at 27, Lee is a very formidable big man. He has a great face-up game, post-up game, and pick-and-roll game. What’s more, coach Jackson likes to use him to initiate the offence from the low and high posts.
3. Bench Play
The Warriors’ bench play is limited to two players but they sure are good at it. Jarret Jack and Carl Landry are two legitimate NBA starters that come off their team’s bench with no issues. Jack is averaging 12 points per game and six assists in 29 minutes a game. Landry is averaging 12 points per game and seven rebounds in 26 minutes a contest. These guys are good. The Raptors’ own bench will have to match their smarts and energy or they will be down in a hole early.
4. Jarret Jack
A candidate for sixth man of the year, Jack has been having a terrific year as both the back-up point guard and game-closing point guard for the Warriors. Although Curry and Lee are the first and second options respectively, when Jack is on the floor, all the offence goes through him. This is especially evident in the fourth quarter.
5. Rebound, rebound, rebound
Any winning team will be a good rebounding team on the defensive end (which is much more important than an offensive rebound) and the Warriors are no exception to this. As a team, they average 44.7 rebounds a game, good for fourth in the association. Luckily, the Raptors are much more athletic up front thanks to Amir Johnson and Ed Davis so crashing the boards shouldn’t be too hard. The Raptors should aim for at least 40 rebounds as a team tonight.
I couldn’t choose just one so tonight’s X-Factors will be Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry. Warriors coach Jackson likes to use a two point guard back court with Curry and Jack as does Raptors coach Dwane Casey. Will Calderon be able to slow down Curry or his former teammate Jack? Both Raptors point guards will need to match the play of the Warriors guards if Toronto hopes to win tonight.
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