The Raptors won! Without Kawhi! All is right with the world.
“Ha,” say the Warriors of Golden State.
Toronto is in tough tonight, no doubt about it. A back-to-back (albeit with a friendly 80 minute flight) against a team that will be looking for their second statement win within the space of a week.
It’s strange to think of Golden State making “statement” wins. They’ve been the whole paragraph, chapter and book on the NBA for the last four years, but with Steph Curry and Draymond Green having been out with injuries a new light has been shone on how not everything has gone well in the land of RUN-TMC.
Simply put, the Warriors have struggled a bit at the draft table, grabbing a selection of bigs in Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, and Damian Jones that have all kind of just been there.
Shockingly, for a team that birthed (or re-birthed, depending how you look at Jordan’s Bulls), the era of multi-positional players, the Dubs have been short of playable wings and guards for the last two years.
During their “rocky” stretch — the Warriors are 9-8 in their past 17 games, including the game against Milwaukee Curry was hurt in — Golden State struggled to find any consistent degree of second-wave scoring to support KD and Thompson.
The Raps however are getting the fully operational version of the Warriors’ Death Star and that team is 14-3 — including the loss to the Bucks.
Golden State got the Bucks back last weekend, putting up a 10-point win in Milwaukee, and you can bet they’d love to make a statement to the Raptors by splitting the series with a big win at home.
The Raps have a noble recent history of coming into the Bay and losing close and valiant, so it’s not as if they’re intimidated by the Warrior’s home court. Still, Toronto hasn’t won in the Bay since the 2003-2004 series and I don’t think Vince Carter and Donyell Marshall are stepping through that arena door anytime soon (well amazingly, Vince could, but I digress).
Here are the details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 10:30 PM. EST
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Golden State: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Toronto: Kawhi Leonard - GTD (Hip), Norman Powell - OUT (Shoulder)
Golden State: Andre Igoudala - GTD (Hip - expected to play), Damian Jones - OUT (torn pectoral), DeMarcus Cousins - OUT (Achilles)
The World is Bigger Than Basketball
We’ll lead with what is really most important: the death of head coach Nick Nurse’s mother. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Raptors’ coach as he tries to find some distraction in doing what he loves.
Is Lowry Back?
Maybe the solution to what ailed Kyle Lowry was just... doing what he’s good at? The diminutive guard looked like his old self against the Clips last night, as he repeatedly got into the lane and looked for his own shot. KLOE was aggressive and comfortable controlling the game, and as such the Raps were carried through a match-up that had looked like it could easily extend their current misery. The only warning sign? Lowry’s comments about being in a “box”.
It sometimes feels like Lowry is the one who boxes himself up with the weird mind games he engages with. Hopefully, he’s toggled himself back into the: “I’m the engine that runs this team” setting, rather than the: “I need to defer to Kawhi Leonard at all times” mode he was flirting with.
The Return of ‘Lil Zo
This should probably be about Kawhi Leonard’s availability and how Nick Nurse deploys him defensively against a fully-loaded Warriors team, but let’s focus on a happy Raptors success story — Alfonzo McKinnie. Many of you will remember ‘Lil Zo (nickname completely made-up), as a bouncy lottery ticket the Raps couldn’t cash last year. Now, due to the aforementioned shaky Warriors depth, McKinnie has emerged as a regular member of the rotation, and sometimes key contributor. He’s still shooting the ball at what seems like a very unsustainable level (.452 on 3-pters on 2.2 shots a game), but everything else looks real.
This is a win both for McKinnie, and the Raps as it’s further proof that Toronto’s development team knows how to get the best out of players, and that can only help as the most intriguing un-drafted talent search for a place to hang their hats in the future.