The Golden State Warriors may have ended up with a solid margin of victory over the wayward Dallas Mavericks, but the Toronto Raptors are going to be a much tougher battle. The Warriors, for their part, have generally been great at rising to any challenge but this young season has offered a lot more "challenge" than "rise" so far.
Who: Warriors (2-2) vs. Raptors (2-1)
When: Wednesday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Oracle Arena
How to Watch: NBCSBA, NBA TV
Radio: 95.7 The Game,
GSW: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia
TOR: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka and Lucas Nogueira
INJURY & ROSTER NOTES
GSW: No injuries.
TOR: Malcom Miller (right ankle), Jonas Valanciunas (sprained left ankle) are out. DeMar DeRozan (?)
The Toronto Raptors are one of those teams that I routinely underestimate. They are reliably one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the regular season but once the postseason hits, they crumble into nothingness. Still though, that backcourt is something special. While I would definitely take Kyle Lowry over Demar DeRozan, this Raptors team still boasts one of the better starting guard combos in the league.
To go along with their backcourt stars, the Raptors are quietly building the sort of versatile, "switch everything" roster made famous by the Warriors. Some of these guys are not very well known (yet) - but keep your eye on their wing rotation players OG Anunoby and Bruno Caboclo. Not necessarily world-beaters here, but when you pair them up with DeRozan, Lowry and wily old Serge Ibaka it can cause problems. In fact, the Raptors have been good enough to rank third in defensive efficiency so far - a far cry from the Warriors (down at 26th).
Valencunius out, among others
Jonas Valanciunas is out with a sprained ankle...and, because this is the 2017 NBA season, so is his backup, Lucas Noguiera (who they call Bebe), who also suffered a sprained ankle. DeRozan took a knee to the thigh against the Spurs and was held out of practice Tuesday but is expected to be ready to play against the Warriors.
It hasn't been easy or pretty, but the Warriors are slowly working their way into the season. Our defense has been horrible, our offensive flow and execution have seen more stumbles than a late night bar in Nashville. But they have been getting away with it on the strength of the #1 offense in the league.
Also, don't forget to get there early if you want a replica ring. I made fun of it last time it was offered, but they actually looked pretty sweet. Much like a real Championship ring, it's not something you'd wear everywhere but it's still a cool conversation starter.
Mouth Guards aside
Did you know Steph Curry is taking an absurd number of free throws? Small sample size warning, of course, but his free throw attempts per 36 minutes are more than double his previous career best. Beyond that, he's also making them all, which is nice. I think this is probably just early season whistle-happy refs, but if Steph is making over nine free throws per game I am more than willing to let them look away from all the abuse Curry gets on offense.
Kevin Durant is a beast
Lest you ever forget.
We've already highlighted here how Kevin Durant's turnover issues are low lying fruit and he delivered against the Mavericks with a tidy two turnovers in about 33 minutes on the floor. With the Raptors having a serious dearth of big shot blockers other than Serge Ibaka, Durant and the Warriors are going to have opportunities to dominate inside. For Durant, it could be a perfect night for another big stat line.
Yes, I know I just talked about how good the Raptors unheard of wing players are but there's no inconsistency here. Durant is just that much better.
Our rotations have been wacky and that's good
While everyone is distracted by his garbage time dunk, Jordan Bell has quietly played his way into Steve Kerr's rotation. In the last game, Bell and Javale McGee chipped in two assists, four rebounds and six points apiece. Balancing a roster and rotation is a tricky act because Bell's emergence pretty much means Kevon Looney is the odd man out and it's only going to get more crowded once Omri Casspi comes back from his rolled ankle.
But these are good problems to have. The Warriors are not playing for the best record in October, they're playing for the best record in the Finals. Period. And to that end, the more tinkering Kerr can fit in now, the better.
Whatever happens, we can only hope and pray for a Bell to McGee alley oop as soon as humanly possible.