Team Records: Toronto 24-8, Golden State 25-5
Where to Watch: Sportsnet Regional (East, Ontario, Pacific), 10:30 p.m. EST
For the Raptors, it should be the toughest test of their current six-game road trip. To appropriately fire you up for (stay with me) a possible Finals matchup, please play this song while reading the remainder of this preview.
Toronto has had two days rest following their overtime loss to Portland on Tuesday night, time they’ll need to get their cardio up. The Raptors and Warriors, at 108.1 points per game, are tied for second in the NBA. The Warriors, however, play at the league’s fastest pace, getting in 98.5 possessions per game (Toronto is 22nd at 92.6).
At the helm of this frighteningly fast attack is Steph Curry. Curry, who is second to LeBron James in early MVP talks, has been impossibly effective in getting his 22.8 points and 7.7 assists per game. He’s shot 49 per cent from the field while his buddy in the backcourt, Klay Thompson, has been lights out from deep, shooting 42 per cent on three-pointers.
This, again, puts pressure on Kyle Lowry to be a two-way force. He’s been up to the task on the road trip thus far, but looked a little weary down the stretch against Portland. Overall, though, he’s been a beast. Lowry is on a stretch of five games with 20 or more points, the longest of his career. It’s been a stretch in which he’s shot a ridiculous 52 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from deep.
Past Curry and Thompson, the Warriors have a breadth of position-less talent, so the Raptors’ depth will be tested as well. Expect plenty of minutes for James Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, who will thrive if Dwane Casey wants to slow things down and make defence an emphasis. Though the Raptors have proved their up-tempo style can play with anyone so far, it may be folly against the ultra-talented Warriors.
The Warriors will be without Andrew Bogut, who remains sidelined with knee inflammation. This should benefit Valanciunas more than anyone, who now has a distinct height advantage over backup Marreese Speights. As for Landry Fields, the latest is…
Landry Fields has passed concussion protocol, and practiced today. Will have to do again tonight/get doctor's clearance to play @ GSW.— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) January 2, 2015
If you’re staying in on a Friday night to watch this one, I salute you and I’m with you. It should be a great fight.
What will you be watching for?