The Golden State Warriors, arguably the biggest (on the pleasant side) surprise in the NBA this season, make their only trip to the Air Canada Centre this year to do battle with the Toronto Raptors. The HQ's Christopher Walder previews tonight's big game.
It's a little over halfway through the 2012-13 season, and the Golden State Warriors are 26-17 and fifth in the uber-competitive Western Conference.
Don't worry, I didn't see that coming either.
Golden State started the season going 13-2 against the east, averaging 101.6 points a game. In three games this January (Heat, Bulls and Bucks), the team is shooting just 37.8% while scoring just 88.0 points.
As most of us are already well aware of, the Toronto Raptors are currently in the midst of their own rough patch, losing five of their last seven games.
The scoring/shooting numbers haven't been terrible -- 104.4 points a game on 48.9% shooting -- but the team has little to show for it at the moment, blowing lead after lead on a regular basis.
It's becoming more and more frustrating for Raptors fans, having to witness such monumental collapses near the ends of games.
It's not over until it's over, and Toronto is learning that the hard way.
With images of Kyrie Irving's three-pointer still dancing in their heads, the Raptors will look to redeem their poor fourth quarter performance against the Cavaliers on Saturday with a strong outing later tonight against Golden State.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Stop The Snub
No one player was as royally shafted from the 2013 NBA All-Star team as Warriors guard Stephen Curry was.
Through 41 games (he's finally staying healthy), Curry is averaging 21.0 points, 6.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds. He's also shooting a scorching 45.4% from three-point range, which is second-best in the NBA behind Atlanta Hawks forward Kyle Korver (47.1%).
Stephen prides himself on his ability to dominate the Raptors when these two teams match up. In four games against Toronto, Curry is averaging 30.3 points a game, which is by far his highest scoring numbers against any one team in the NBA.
Leaving Curry unaccounted for on the perimeter could be extremely costly, as his 7.0 attempts a game from behind-the-arc are second-highest in the league.
2) Defend D. Lee
Despite the blatant snub of Curry, the Warriors still managed to send one of their own to Houston for the All-Star game in February.
David Lee, the NBA leader in double-doubles with 27, was just recently named to his second all-star team, and his first as a member of the Warriors.
He's just half a point away from being the only player in the league to average at least 20 points and ten rebounds a game (19.5 points, 10.8 rebounds).
Not to sound like a broken record, but Lee has also found quite a bit of success against the Raptors as well, averaging 21.9 points and 13.1 rebounds over his last seven games against the team. He's very skilled offensively on the low-block, so Amir Johnson/Ed Davis are certainly going to have their work cut out for them trying to keep Lee at bay.
3) Hit The Glass
The Warriors are near the top of the league when it comes to grabbing boards (44.7 a game, fourth in NBA), but over the past few games, they've been eaten alive on the offensive glass, allowing their opponents to get many second-change points.
In fact, Golden State has been outscored 71-25 in that department over this stretch of games against the Eastern Conference.
David Lee and Carl Landry (6.7) are really the only players who rebound the ball at an efficient rate for the Warriors, and the Raptors frontcourt is far more athletic.
Amir Johnson/Ed Davis are averaging a combined 17.3 rebounds over the past ten games. Golden State is near the top of the league in shots attempted (82.9), so opportunities will be there to grab rebounds and create opportunities for teammates on the other end.