After a two-year hiatus, the Golden State Warriors are back to being the talk of the town.
Sitting atop the league at 14–2, with the two losses by a combined seven points, Stephen Curry and the Warriors are absolutely on fire. They average 113.9 PTS/G which is first in the league, and their offensive rating is 113, good for second in the league. They allow 100.9 PTS/G, the second best in the league, while boasting 100.1 defensive rating which is first. 11 of their 14 wins were by double digits, including a 26-point blow out against a hot Chicago team a few games before an 18-point win in Brooklyn against the Nets. Long story short, Golden State is dominant on both ends.
The Toronto Raptors, on the other hand, have slowed down after an early 5-game win streak. The defense has shown some holes, allowing over 118 points in four of the last five games. The bench has been extremely on and off, being off most of the time. The good news is the Raptors have had success in this match up recently. Toronto have won four of the last five. But this is a different Warriors squad, one playing high level basketball this season. Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 8:30PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Golden State – Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Toronto — OG Anunoby (hip – questionable), Yuta Watanabe (calf – questionable)
Golden State – James Wiseman (knee – out), Klay Thompson (achilles – out)
Friday night’s game against Sacramento proved one thing: Khem Birch is a winning player. Whether it’s the traditional big man things — setting screens, boxing out, finishing under the rim — or something more, like the million short floaters he’s nearly automatic with, he brings something that is needed when he’s on the court. Balance.
With Birch playing the 5 in the starting lineup, neither Scottie Barnes nor Pascal Siakam need to do too much. Birch can guard the bigger players. Birch can attack the offensive glass. Birch can set the screens. Like on Friday night, Siakam and Barnes can focus on the things such as creating scoring opportunities rather than draining their energy guarding bigger players. When OG Anunoby returns however, the question is: does Khem Birch stay a starter?
Like Fine Wine
At age 33, Steph Curry has been playing some of the best basketball in his career. A career that already includes three championships and two MVP awards. In his last six games, Curry has made nine three-pointers in a game 4 times. In that same span, he’s averaging 36 points and seven assists while shooting an incredible 47.7% from outside on close to 15 attempts. Through 15 games this season, he’s scored 50 once and 40+ three times. To say he is sizzling right now would be an understatement. After averaging 32 points a game last season and winning the scoring title and his fast start this season, Stephen Curry’s greatness should not be questioned.
To slow down Curry, that “janky” defence known as the Box-and-1 could be in play tonight. However, with the emergence of Jordan Poole as another perimeter threat, Andrew Wiggins improvement from distance, and even Draymond Green’s new willingness to take his open shots will make it a difficult proposition. Even when those players sit, Otto Porter – a long time Raptor Killer – and Nemanja Bjelica will fill in with ease. Toronto has shown to have some incredible games on the road this season and yet they will need to play nearly flawless on defence to pull out a victory.
Through 17 games, only two things are certain in Raptor games. Nick Nurse crouching (if we had a clear microphone every night, it might be Nurse screaming to Scottie Barnes “TO THE RIM!”) and Gary Trent Jr. hitting a contested step back left elbow jump shot. Self creation is at a premium in the league and the development in this regard from Trent and OG Anunoby has given the Raptors something to hope for.
Trent is averaging a career high 17.4 PTS/G. With the scoring done by committee (VanVleet, Trent, Anunoby, and Siakam are all averaging over 17 PTS/G), the Raptors have multiple players who can lead the team in scoring on any given night, making it hard to defend for opposing teams. If Trent can continue the development, we are in for a treat.