So far this season, the Raptors have had moments of clarity and moments of folly. Wins over Oklahoma City and Dallas felt like a breath of fresh air. Then, you have games like Sunday night in Sacramento.
Jonas Valanciunas gets benched for all but eight seconds of the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan isolates late as Cory Joseph (80 percent from the field) and Kyle Lowry (50 percent on threes) look on. Bad memories from March and April sweep in, casting shade on the blue collar team we've seen flashes of.
It's too early to say who the "real Raptors" are, but a great test and an opportunity to play spoiler comes tonight against the Warriors. Golden State is 11-0 after beating Brooklyn in overtime on Saturday, avoiding embarrassment in what's otherwise been a phenomenal start to the season. They're the rare defending champions that aren't resting on their laurels -- though they've beaten up opponents without really playing to full potential.
As the Raptors look to hand the Warriors their first notch in the loss column, here's some things to watch for:
Will Draymond Green play?
Green has been the Warriors' second-best player so far this season (we'll get to the other guy), but he missed Monday's practice with the flu and the team is proceeding as if he'll be out tonight. This means Golden State could be missing one of their premier playmakers in the pick and roll, with a bit of pressure coming off DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola, and Patrick Patterson on the defensive end.
Will Steph Curry drop 50?
So far this season, there's been two different versions of Steph Curry: great, and Bradley Cooper in Limitless great. If the Raptors get Curry at just "great", it would be a blessing. Curry's per game numbers are hard to believe in every column: 33.4 points, 5.6 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 52 percent shooting, and 45 percent from deep in 35.1 minutes. Those are all-time numbers in every sense.
So yes, Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph will have their hands full. Beyond that, there will be more demand on Jonas Valanciunas in the pick and roll. The pressure on big men guarding the Warriors is intense. Stay in the paint? Curry will rain a 20-footer. Come out too hard? It ends up looking something like this.
If Valanciunas gets exposed early, look for Casey to go with Biyombo for longer stretches again.
It really comes down to this: Curry will score, the question is how much? If the Raptors can somehow test Klay Thompson, who hasn't looked quite as sharp this year, it may be preferable to Steph going supernova.
Can the Raptors score enough?
So far this year, the Raptors offence has been inconsistent, with an improved defence keeping them in games. In this matchup, though, that probably won't be enough. Golden State comes in scoring 114.1 points per game (best in the league) while only giving up 97.8 (ninth in the league). If Toronto is going to hang in this one, they'll need a breakout from one or both of DeRozan and Lowry to get over the century mark -- definitely doable against a Warriors team that showed cracks in the armour against the lowly Nets.
Where To Watch: TSN National, 10:30 p.m. EST