As the Raptors aren’t mathematically locked out of the playoff hunt just yet, the tipping point is in sight as the playoffs inch closer and closer. Both the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors enter into tonight’s game looking to end their four-game losing streaks, but the Raps need this win more than ever.
In a previous game that carried major playoff implications for the fate of the Raptors season going forward, there’s not much more to say than that this team’s kryptonite lies in the overtime period. Although the Raptors demonstrated major spurts of heart and determination in their 122-114 overtime loss, it must be put behind them in sight of the battle in front of them tonight.
"I loved our fight with Rudy being out," coach Dwane Casey said. "Our guys are pulling together, pulling for each other."
The Dinos will square off against the Warriors for the second and final time this season. The Warriors have won nine of their last 11 games against the Raptors, including the last seven-straight at Oracle arena in Oakland.
Despite dropping their last four, the Warriors are arguably one of the biggest surprises in the league thus far as Mark Jackson has his squad playing a disciplined style of basketball. Holding one of the league’s top 10 best scoring offenses, with some extraordinary efforts from sharpshooter Steph Curry, they haven’t been able to match their efforts on the defensive end.
The Warriors won the first matchup with the Raps 114-102 in Toronto, behind the strong play of David Lee who had 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as they shot 53.5 percent from the field. As Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack torched the Raps’ from behind the arc, the absence of another capable wing that could contain them on the perimeter lacked, so the hope was that with Rudy Gay now in tow, things would be different. With Gay possibly sitting out once again with back spasms, it’s up to Raps’ backcourt and bench to provide a spark on both ends of the floor tonight.
Here are the three keys to winning and ending the four-game losing streak:
1) Get out and running early/ Secure foundation: With a road trip under their belt, the Warriors are at home for a seven game home stand at Oracle Arena. The Dinos must take every opportunity to ensure that the Warriors don't jump out to an early lead and begin to get comfortable. With contributors such as Jack, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green complimenting the likes of Curry & Lee, Golden State can get hot in a hurry, it's up to the Raps' as a collective unit to balance the floor.
2) Contain the tandem of Curry and Thompson: As Kyle Lowry had an impressive triple-double outing against the Bucks, it'll be his responsibility to check Curry off the jump. Curry has scored at least 25pts in four straight, including a 54-point performance of the ages in New York last Wednesday, he's averaging 27.6pts on 54.4 percent shooting in five career games against the Raptors, which have all translated to wins for the former Davidson star. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan must challenge both shooters early to prevent them from torching them from deep as they've done time and time again in games of the past.
3) Spread the ball efficiently: With Rudy Gay possibly being sidelined once again for back spasms tonight, the Raps' must come up with a method that will allow various players to get their touches tonight. Seven players ended up in double figures against the Bucks, as the squad scored more than 92 points for the first time during their skid. If responsibilities are achieved on the defensive side of the ball against this efficient scoring team, the baskets will accumulate naturally on the other end.
As Andrea Bargnani moved into the starting lineup for offensive purposes in Gay's absence, his shooting woes still need to improve, as he will play a major factor in dismantling the Warriors weak defense as of late.
UPDATE: As per Raptors' voice Eric Smith, Rudy Gay will give it a go tonight despite being sore, while Andrea Bargnani is a game-time decision. Apparently he's feeling ill due to reaction to medication but feel free to insert your own jokes here.