After putting up a big fat donut after four pretty tough games out West, the Raptors return home to face the Warriors in a game that folks wil be anxious about who’s on the other team: Stephen Curry. I really love this kid, and that sentiment is shared by many of you. We miss him until we realize that he’s a murderer, averaging 32pts 11ast 7rebs against the Raptors.
I checked in with Jim Del Favero from Warriors World the team:
Ekpe Udoh was one of our favourites at RR, we even got in a pre-draft interview with him, I know he’s been injured, but what were your thoughts of him before he went down?
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see anything of Udoh before he was injured. We had heard that he injured it while lifting weights at the practice facility. There were some rumors that he did it before the draft, but nothing confirmed. He has been traveling with the team recently so there is hope that he will be in playing shape soon. Ethan Sherwood Straus did a piece on Udoh before the season to project where he would rank amongst the other picks in that range. Matt Steinmetz was a little more positive about Udoh’s post game and shot blocking abilities.
Warriors fans have a direct comparison that leaves them wary of investing too much hope in Udoh’s prospects. Adonal Foyle, a defensive shot blocker from a second tier program, who left the Warriors as their all time leader in blocked shots, but didn’t make much of an impact on the floor. Udoh certainly has a better NBA body than Brandan Wright, but it remains to be seen what impact he will have in the NBA. Monroe has looked like an awful pick so far, so that takes some pressure off Udoh.
A big coup this summer was landing David Lee, who will be a great pick-n-roll partner with Stephen Curry when he gets back. How has he fit in so far? Was too high a price paid to land him?
Lee’s offense has been worse than advertised but his rebounding is where we thought it would be. Defensively he is still a liability, but playing with Andris Biedrins is benefiting both players. They combined for over 30 rebounds against Utah last week, and are challenging shots, and cleaning the boards on both ends. Against teams with only a dominant center, or dominant power forward the tandem is perfect. When playing teams with 2 quality front line players Lee’s defensive challenges are more apparent. With Curry back in the lineup Lee is going to get more easy looks on offense, and his numbers should improve.
A bigger move was getting new ownership. What does geting out from under Chris Cohan’s hands mean for this team going forward?
New ownership is huge for this team, but only if the team organizes to win. Cohan and his ownership is remembered for extracting maximum value with minimum investment. Lacob and Guber talk a good game, and some decisions like letting Don Nelson and his 6 million this year go in favor of new blood and a focus on defense and coaching is a good sign. New ownership still isn’t approved and that may be due to the additional partners being added to the ownership group. The group may end up with 2 majority partners and as many as 8 minority owners before it’s approved. Certainly fans would rather see Larry Ellison, his billions, and his willingness to spend what it takes to win. Lacob will be a hero if he can build a team that gets into the playoffs and wins a championship.
4-1 to start the year with impressive wins over Houston and Utah, and without Curry. What’s been the secret sauce?
Strange I know, but it’s defense and rebounding. The Warriors are playing some scrappy defense with steals, significantly better offensive rebounding, and playing with discipline. Last season you had Biedrins with his worst season, and an undersized power forward and lineup. There was no help defense at all, so Biedrins would be saddled with fouls, and the warriors would go to an undersized lineup with no rebounding. With Lee in there it takes the pressure off Biedrins, and is providing plenty of second chance points. Ellis had 7 steals Friday night, and the Warriors are more active on defense, hands up, hands in the passing lane, contesting shots, stealing passes. They aren’t going to be a lock down defensive team, but they are playing better more active team defense which will result in fewer blowout losses and more wins in close games.
What happens with Ellis when Curry gets back?
The myth that those two can’t play together is busted. They play well together and there aren’t that many point guards with a strong post up game to take advantage of Curry, Ellis’s speed offsets any size disadvantage he has against larger 2 guards. Ellis has also shown a lot of maturity and leadership this season, improving his defense, and understanding when he isn’t getting his shot off to work on other aspects of his game. When they are both on the floor they each get easier shots. Curry can get the ball to Ellis where he wants it to take advantage of a seam in the defense, Ellis can penetrate and dish to Curry. Curry being out has exposed the Warriors lack of bench depth. We went from CJ Watson coming off the bench doing a reasonable job of managing the team to Charlie Bell who hasn’t shown anything so far. Lack of depth at the point is something Larry Riley needs to address soon.
I would be remiss not mentioning Dorell Wright and what a great pickup he has been for the Warriors. He has been an excellent fit, better than advertised. Corey Magette may fill up a stat sheet but Dorell makes a difference in the W-L column. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some discussion of Dorell Wright as most improved player if he keeps up this pace.
Ed Davis – Out (still can’t remember what’s wrong with him)
Brandan Wright – Day-to-day (Flu)
PG – Jack vs Curry
This might have been a total rapage until you remember that Curry is just getting back from an injury, so he wont be in full form; although he dropped 20pts 6ast Friday in a win over the Jazz. I’m erring on the side of him having a standard game against the Raptors and lights things up. Neither Jack nor Calderon has the chops to stop this guy, but you can take him out of his comfort and just play up tight on him. I’d make him put it on the floor and hope to Jah the defense rotates and you contest a shot; just don’t double him. He will find his man.
SG – DeRozan vs Ellis
Apply what I said about Ellis, but realize Ellis doesn’t like (want, feel the need; the list goes on) to pass the ball, can score in more ways than Curry, and is even more devastating on the offensive end this year than the past. DeRozan is coming off a brutal game against the Blazers, and it wont get much easier. Ellis is quick, strongish, has good hands and is a thief (7 steals against the Jazz who are awesome at protecting the ball). Not going to be easy, but DeMar did a good job on Kobe and Batum (not Roy so much) over the the weekend.
Please note the different areas on the floor that both Ellis and Curry shoot AND score from; bloody scary.
SF – Kleiza vs Wright
All it took was a change of scenery to not speak about Dorell as an afterthought. Since getting here, the kid is shooting 54% from behind the arc, lighting up the boxscore and playing some really good defense. Gotta say, he got some hype in Miami, but is really living up to it now on the left coast. Kleiza will have his hands full, and if he plays like he did against Batum, will be in for a long night. His shooting has been pretty bad (40% FG 27% 3FG) and he doesn’t get to the rack like he can. I’d be happy if we didn’t see Wright get open threes all night.
PF – Evans vs Lee
The forward match-up can be interchangeable for the Warriors, but they play Lee at a 4 for the most part, so I’ll base it on this comparison. Lee’s offense hasn’t been at the same levels as years past, and much of that has to do with playing with Ellis and Curry (not as many shots to go around), since he’s getting about 4 less shots than last season. He’s also not shooting the ball as well as he was in New York, but a lot of that has to do with going into a new system. He gets the benefit of the doubt, since he’s playing the best team to come out of a funk against; the Raptors. If history has taught us anything about this team, it’s that players always have career games against us. While Evans has done a bang up job on the glass, his energy and hustle hasn’t made up for his weakish defense (which to his credit is much improved). Reggie is in for a tough night since he can go toe-to-toe with Lee on the glass, but wont put up the same scoring numbers.
C – Bargnani vs Biedrins
I’m going to be honest, don’t know a whole lot about Biedrins other than he’s a beast on the boards. He wont give Bargnani much problems on defense, but will really challenge him on the glass. Bargnani should win this duel, no questions asked; there’s really not more to this match-up than that.
Keys to the Game
Protect the Glass
Lee and Biedrins combined for 35 rebounds against the jazz, and are averaging about 20 for the season between them. It’s a 1-2 combo that could prove a bit too much for Andrea to fight against. While Bargnani’s rebounding has started to come around, it will need a kick start tonight since these two have made careers rebounding the crap out of the ball
Energy and Hustle
The Warriors have got out to a great start to the season with their rebounding (4th 46.5/game) and playmaking (4th 24.2/game). The things that made the Raptors successful against the Lakers should be adopted here: athleticism, crashing the boards, as well as defensive rotations.
The Warriors have long athletes, but the Raptors have bigger/stronger cats to throw at them. They didn’t come at the Blazers with their size effectively, and it cost them. The Warriors don’t even have a post presence like Aldridge to throw the ball into. This has to be an area of the game where the Raptors have to dominate; from 1-5 we have a stronger team that has to take advantage of what we have.
Protect Home Court
It was a long week, and there would be no other way to put it behind us than to stop the four game losing streak; gotta play with some hide and a sense of urgency. That’s all their is to it.
The degenerates have the Raptors as 2 point favourites at home, which is as close to a push as you can get without actually saying so. What we can expect is a close game that will come to the wire. Three of the next seven are against the easts elite (Orlando, Miami and Boston), need to handle business and stop some of the bleeding now. End of story.