Oracle Arena - Oakland, CA
7:30 p.m. PST
Radio: KNBR 680 AM | TV: CSN Bay Area
Buddy Blog: Raptors HQ
It is definitely a positive sign to see the Golden State Warriors bounce back in recent days after disappointing loses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. Golden State is currently on a six-game home stand, already taken care of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers by double-digits. The next stretch of games start to get a bit tougher and it begins with a matchup against the Toronto Raptors who boost the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors have fared well without their leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan who has missed the past 16 games because of a groin injury. Going 11-5 during this stretch, Toronto has relied on the likes of Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and Lou Williams to step up in DeRozan's absence.
Lowry is averaging career highs of 20.7 points, 7.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds according to ESPN Stats. Meanwhile, Williams has emerged as a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, dropping 14.7 points off the bench.
For the Warriors, Andrew Bogut (knee) and Festus Ezeli (ankle) are still making progress, but neither will suit up. It is noteworthy that Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle reports David Lee's minutes restriction has been lifted. Without Bogut and Ezeli, expect Lee to play more minutes with the Dubs' first unit.
Last season, the Warriors split the season series with the Raptors. Golden State will need to play a sound game on both ends of the floor to defeat the Raptors sans DeRozan. According to NBA.com/Stats, Lowry is fifth in the NBA in points per game on drives at 6.8. On top of that, Toronto ranks sixth in the NBA with 45.3 points in the paint per game via Team Rankings. The Warriors' perimeter defenders will be put to the task of minimizing the Raptors from entering and scoring inside the key.
Additionally, keep an eye on the heavy-weight matchup of Marreese Speights vs. Jonas Valanciunas. Without Bogut, Golden State will likely continue to play a ton of small-ball lineups. The lack of an interior presence will cause Speights to have his hands full in defending the pick-and-roll as well as helping off of penetration.
Golden State's potent offense and defense will put to the test against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Let's pack the Roaracle and begin 2015 with a GSW victory!