Entering the ninth game of the season Sunday night, the Raptors have an opportunity to prove they’re turning the corner by locking down a back-to-back win for the first time this season. They’ll just have to beat Steph Curry and the Warriors to do it.
Coming off a convincing victory versus the Kings a couple nights ago, in which the first quarter looked to be going sideways, the Raptors found lineups that clicked together, and individual players started to look more confident in their efforts. What’s more, all of it happened without Kyle Lowry, who is expected to return tonight versus the Warriors.
While Golden State is playing the season without Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green was slow to return to the lineup, their star point guard, Steph Curry, is taking the team on his back and scoring at will — as he has his entire career.
This is a game for the Raptors to continue to test out their small ball lineups with rookie James Wiseman being the only true centre on the Warriors. It’s also an opportunity for the Raptors to show they’re better than their 2-6 record.
To truly prove they’re back to being themselves, the Raptors have some ground to make up. And there’s no better time than tonight on the first half of a back-to-back. Here are the game details for this evening.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet, 8:30 PM ET
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Golden State – Steph Curry, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, James Wiseman
Toronto – Patrick McCaw (knee – out)
Golden State – Andrew Wiggins (foot – questionable), Kevon Looney (hip – questionable), Alen Smailagic (knee – out), Klay Thompson (Achilles – out), Marquese Chriss (leg – out)
After the loss to the Phoenix Suns a few nights ago, Kyle Lowry said the team had no swag.
“Right now we have no swag to us ... teams are looking at us and saying let’s eat ... that’s not a good position at all’ — Kyle Lowry.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) January 5, 2021
On Friday, there was swagger from this Toronto team — yes, even when they were down 19 in the first quarter. When shots started to fall for the Raptors, even it with the Kings shooting well too, it was Toronto saying: let’s eat.
Pascal Siakam has had back-to-back solid games offensively and Fred VanVleet has had some impressive offensive outbursts in two of the last three games. Hopefully that continues, but what was significant from the Kings game was Toronto’s bench, which scored a combined season-high 63 points. (And they did this with Norman Powell, who else had a solid game, in the starting lineup as well.)
The Raptors showed belief that they can compete and that there are enough offensive weapons beyond Siakam, VanVleet, and Lowry. So, sure, maybe the short training camp and handful of new faces is the cause of the Raptors slow start. At least now there is reason to believe things can click.
Protect the Perimeter
Steph Curry is going to score. It’s what he does and it’s not easy to stop. This season he’s making 4.6 threes per game and he’s coming off a game in which he made nine. Astounding stuff — but that’s more threes than he hit during his 62-point performance versus Portland when he made only eight.
The Raptors haven’t been the greatest team defending the perimeter this season, and while there have been some out of the ordinary three-point performances from teams like the Hornets and Pelicans, the Raptors do need to close out better. Through eight games teams are making nearly 14 threes per game versus the Raptors on 38.4 percent shooting. It’s tough to win with opponents putting up those kind of numbers consistently.
Outside of Curry, the Warriors aren’t really a three-point threat, ranking 18th in the league at 36.1 per cent. But to limit the Warriors offense, ensuring there are proper defensive rotations and close outs will be important tonight. As much as Curry will shoot threes, he’ll also try to navigate into the painted area, leaving others open.
And we have to believe Steph will be ready for the box-and-one this time.
Finish at the Rim
In the Raptors’ losses this season finishing at the rim and even just getting into the paint to attack has been an issue. Last game, against an admittedly weaker defensive team in Sacramento, the Raptors looked much more controlled when attacking the rim. It helps when the team is hitting a lot of threes, but the key is being aggresive. A player like Siakam, in particular, needs to put that kind pressure on the defense (drawing fouls, finding passes, getting to the rim), to open things up for the Raptors. Fortunately, as of late, he’s looked a lot more like the Siakam of old.
When there’s no shot blocker in for Golden State — which could happen often — it’ll be a good idea to attack the rim. Again, besides Wiseman, there is no centre on this Warriors team or another real shot blocking threat. We already know Siakam is a handful even for some one like Draymond, so that gives him the opportunity to set the tone for Toronto. Get to the rim and allow those efforts to create passes out to the perimeter for threes. The Raptors just have to remember: there’s no reason to fear this Warriors team in that way.