Welcome to a new weekly feature on Raptors HQ where we set up your PVR or League Pass for the week. For each day of the week, I’ll preview one game and highlight why you should watch it. I’ll also rate the game’s watchability for Raptor fans on a scale of 1 to 5.
Actually, numbers are boring, so let’s tweak this to rate your excitability for the game on a scale of one to five OG’s.
The OG Rating Scale of Excitability
1 = One emotionless OG: little to no effect on the Raptors, but it’s better than nothing.
2 = One emotionless OG looking in a mirror: little effect on the Raptors, but it should be a good one.
3 = OG raising his eyebrows (Is he excited? Shocked? Laughing??): good match-up not including the Raptors; or not-as-exciting-but-at-least-it’s-the-Raptors.
4 = OG smirk: must-watch, whether or not it affects the Raptors.
5 = OG smiling: drop everything and watch this game.
January 15: Golden State at Cleveland
Now this is how you want to start a “Games of the Week” column. The last three NBA Champs (with a possible fourth this year). Four Hall-of-Famers (three who are still in their prime). Two of the best offenses in the league. Rematch of a tightly contested Christmas Day affair. Are you excited? Am I the Don King of basketball promos? Allow me to douse you with some fresh, ice-cold, Lake Ontario water.
This game will tell us very little about each team, just as the previous game did. While the Warriors eventually prevailed on December 25, Cavs fans will be quick to point out Kevin Durant fouled LeBron James three times in the final two minutes — each call was missed by the refs. Warrior fans will probably rebut that they won despite missing Steph Curry, who was nursing an ankle sprain. I could go on and on (and so could the die-hards of each fan base).
Since re-joining Cleveland in 2014, LeBron’s Cavs have only won two of seven regular season meetings with Golden State -- and three of the five losses were blowouts. The Warriors have the distinction of handing the Cavaliers their worst regular season loss in each of the last two seasons (34 and 35-point routs in 2016 and 2017, respectively). Cleveland has the second worst defensive rating over the entire season, and the worst over the last three games. Meanwhile, Golden State is lapping the field in several categories: Points, Assists, Blocks, FG%, 3pt%, FT%, ORtg, Net Rating, Fast Break Points, Bench Net Rating.
If you’ve been living under a rock (you probably first need some medical attention), and only started watching this season on Thursday, you’d notice the Raptors destroy the Cavs (even without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka), then watch the Dubs drop 81(!) in the first half on that same Toronto team, two nights later. Do you see where I’m going with this?
January 16: New Orleans at Boston
It’s almost been a month since Woj bombed us with Anthony Davis-to-Boston rumours. Actually, it wasn’t so much a bomb as it was a little firecracker. It obviously piqued the interest of Celtic fans, but also raised some eyebrows throughout the league. Even if it’s closer to a Boston wet dream than Celtic reality, Danny Ainge still has the Lakers pick this season (if it falls between 2-5) and plenty of young assets to entice Dell Demps.
New Orleans is not trading away their unicorn, especially since Alvin Gentry has found a way for Davis and DeMarcus Cousins to co-exist, plus the Pelicans are one of five teams currently in a logjam for the 5-seed in the West. New Orleans’ sixth ranked offense should be in tough against the league’s top-ranked defense. Hey, and look at that: Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen return to the Garden!
January 17: Detroit at Toronto
The Pistons are one of the rare teams that still play a traditional centre, Andre Drummond, which allows Jonas Valanciunas to get a lot of playing time. While his minutes have dipped to a career-low 21.0 per game, JV has averaged 29.4 whenever he’s up against Drummond. On opening day, last season, JV dropped 32 and 11 on Detroit. On January 12, 2015, Valanciunas had a career night against Drummond, scoring 31 on 14-of-15 shooting. If we’re treated to nothing else during this game, please, please, please let it be endless replays of this:
January 18: Philadelphia at Boston
The Sixers visit the Celtics in a rematch of last week’s tilt in London. The buzz, however, will likely come from Atlanta, where Ernie Johnson will announce the All-Star starters. At last check, Joel Embiid was building a comfortable lead over Kristaps Porzingis for the final frontcourt spot, behind LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ben Simmons, on the other hand, sat one spot out, behind Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan.
While this could already be a first-round preview of Atlantic Division foes, Philadelphia (#10) and Boston (#3) also have two of the 10 youngest rosters in the association. We could be witnessing the birth of a new rivalry.
January 19: San Antonio at Toronto
Oh right, analysis. The Raptors are currently sporting the 3rd best offense, while the Spurs have a top-5 defense (#2) for, approximately, the 80th consecutive season. In their earlier meeting this season, the Spurs played well, despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard — who should be available for this contest. Dejounte Murray was outstanding (16/14/6), Danny Green stepped up defensively (five blocks), and LaMarcus Aldridge continued his mastery over the team that should have drafted him instead of Andrea Bargnani (What? Me? Bitter?).
If there’s a silver lining for Raps fans, the Spurs haven’t been this bad offensively in 10 years. Their 107.2 Offensive Rating ties their lowest since the 2007-08 season, which doubles as the last time their offense was below league average. Another huge difference from their earlier meeting, is the addition of OG Anunoby to the starting lineup. If/when he matches up with Kawhi — insert Spiderman pointing at Spiderman meme.
January 20: Golden State at Houston
Wow, what a week of games. If I didn’t know any better, it would almost seem like I purposely wanted to start a weekly column of game previews with this specific week! (It’s not....I’m not savvy enough to pull that off). The Warriors and Rockets have been the two best teams for the entire first half of the season. They own the two best net ratings, offensive ratings, and points per game (each three points clear of Toronto). They kicked off the season with a thrilling nail-biter that saw Chris Paul make his Rockets debut (and exiting early with an injury), Draymond Green finish 1 point shy of a triple-double (before exiting early with an injury), and Kevin Durant hit a game-winning buzzer-beater (before it was waved off by the remaining 2 officials, since the 3rd exited early with an injury....no seriously). Nothing is set in stone, especially with Popovich’s Spurs, Thibodeau’s T-Wolves, and Westbrook’s Thunder (sorry, that was too easy) lurking in the playoffs. But, there isn’t a juicier playoff matchup out West. Simply rewatch that opening night game and tell me you wouldn’t want 7 games of that in late-May.
January 21: Indiana at San Antonio
While this game doesn’t have the buzz or hoopla of games earlier in the week, it’s an interesting match-up of over-achieving teams. Indiana was left for dead after trading away superstar Forward Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Can you blame Pacer fans for feeling a little dejected after that trade? The man who took the franchise within one game of eliminating LeBron, was traded away for two players who had been traded a year earlier, along with Ersan Ilyasova, for Serge Ibaka!
But now, halfway through the season, Oladipo’s looking like an All-Star, Sabonis is among the league leaders in FG% and Rebounding percentage, and the Indiana Pacers are in the thick of the playoff race, closing in on a top-4 seed.
Over in San Antonio, Popovich continues to bolster his Presidential campaign (Pop/Kerr 2020) by turning water into wine. The Spurs have the third best record in the West and the second ranked defense, all while getting only nine games from Kawhi, 18 from Tony Parker, and turning around Aldridge’s career (and tenure as a Spur).
Some smaller items that may only interest me. In a very un-Spurs-like move, on draft night in 2011, San Antonio traded backup point guard, George Hill, to Indiana for the 15th pick, Kawhi Leonard (and Davis Bertans). They then filled Hill’s vacancy with the 29th pick, Cory Joseph — currently with the Pacers and returning to the place where he won a championship.