Gameday: Warriors @ Raptors, Jan. 28

The Super Splash Brothers are in town.

The Golden State Warriors are 26-17. I have to be honest, I didn’t see this coming. I thought they’d be about .500 and maybe just miss the playoffs in the Western Conference, which would still have been a nice jump for the team. They’ve also been missing their best interior defender more or less the whole season in Andrew Bogut, so there is still upside for this squad.

But they come into Toronto tonight for game three of their four-game Eastern Conference road trip, coming off losses to the Bulls and Bucks. Can the Warriors right the ship against OH GOD LAME HOCKEY JOKE HERE the Raptors, who are reeling from a deadly Kyrie Irving buzzer-beating three?

To help us find out, I enlisted the help of Jordan Ramirez of Warriors World, the True Hoop Network Warriors blog.

26-17. You couldn’t have expected this much growth this quickly, right?
Not this quickly, no way. There was a growing optimism in the pre-season that if this team stayed healthy they could sneak into the playoffs and win a game or two. Have to give credit where it’s due: Bob Myers has built a winner and has made not one bad move in his tenure as GM of this team. The trade of Dorell Wright for Jarrett Jack has paid huge dividends in the backcourt and the acquisition of Carl Landry has given this team another low post threat to compliment David Lee. What has been most impressive however is this years draft class consisting of Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. Each rookie has a specific role on this team, has meshed with this team seamlessly and thus achieved success in their own specific role. Every player has a set role on this team and each contribute in their own unique way. This is truly a team effort and the success has been a refreshing sight to everyone involved with the franchise. Sitting at 26-17 with their biggest (both literally and figuratively) acquisition playing all but four games, this is incredibly impressive for a young team with a second year coach, and the success can only grow with the addition of Andrew Bogut.

Will Steph Curry eventually pass the Allen’s and Nash’s of the world for title of “Best Shooter of All Time?” (This assumes his ankles, which are made of silly string, hold up.)
If there is one inheritable trait of an NBA player that never leaves him, it’s his ability to shoot. Ray Allen and Steve Nash are great examples of how age bares no relevance in terms of their pure shooting strokes. Curry is in the perfect situation for him to succeed as Mark Jackson has given him the ultimate green light to shoot it whenever he well pleases. While he’s given the ultimate green light, Curry is smart with his shots too. As the primary ball handler Curry can’t simply chuck them up every time down the floor, so he often runs the offense and goes with the flow of the game accordingly. But, as the primary ball handler for the Warriors, Curry can (and often has) pulled up, come off screens and learn to create his own shot, leading to incredible production and more shots being put up. Curry is on a torrid pace from beyond the arc as well, shooting 44% through his first three seasons (an NBA record for a player with at least 800 attempts). Curry is in the ideal situation to show off his shot on a daily basis for this team, and his pure stroke and incredibly quick release give him all the tools to become the greatest shooter of all time. Assuming health isn’t an issue, nothing can stop him from eventually becoming just that.

Jarrett Jack is an ex-Raptor perhaps best remembered as being Jose Calderon Victim #174 in point guard battles in Toronto. He’s been a big help to this GSW team it seems, is that correct?
Absolutely. While I’ve been known to support the likes of Charles Jenkins and was impressed with his play last season, the acquisition of Jarrett Jack has proved to be invaluable to a team that was in dire need of a veteran point guard presence. Recently, Jack has been an assist machine, dishing out 55 dimes in his last six contests (with two straight 20 and 10 games) to go along with his 48% shooting this season. Jack has given this team a proven, dependable backup guard and coach Mark Jackson as a result is closing games with a Jack-Curry-Klay-Lee-Landry lineup. One problem with Jack however lies with ball movement. When Jack and Curry are both in the game it often leads to dead possessions of iso-ball and lack of fluid ball movement. While the Warriors offense can be unstoppable with Curry and Klay Thompson coming off screens at the wings, if those aren’t there then the offense sputters and Jack often looks to shoot for himself. This isn’t a major problem, but a noticeable one that Jack, Curry and Thompson must work out, especially late in games. Jack is in the final year of his contract, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to see him not being a member of the Warriors beyond this season.

What can the Raptors try to exploit to steal a victory against Del’s Son and the gang?
Despite the slight (key word: slight) improvement of David Lee on the defensive end and the addition of Festus Ezeli, the Warriors are still prone to giving up offensive rebounds and thus losing the second chance points department by a pretty wide margin. The past two games (@CHI, @MIL) the Warriors have been out rebounded 38-22 on the offensive glass. This team is still unwilling to really battle with big bruising frontcourts, and Toronto has a couple nice players of their own in this right with Amir Johnson and Ed Davis. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Raptors dominate the glass and simply outwork the Warriors on the inside leading to those extra possessions and second chance points. With David Lee in the middle of his post All-Star selection hangover, Lee will have to make his usual stat line actually contribute to the victory if the team wants the victory. With that said, great shooting can cure these faults, and if Curry and Thompson decide to have one of “those” games than this could very well turn to the Warriors favor in a big way.

Interesting Fact: A few weeks back some of us on Twitter had got to calling Steph and Klay Thompson the “Super Splash Brothers” because of their three-point shooting ability and volume. At the time, I did a Basketball-Reference play index search and found that Klay and Steph are currently on pace to be just the third pair of teammates ever to each fire 500 three-point attempts in a season. In 2002, Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker did it and in 2008, Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson did it. Klay and Steph are on pace for 1127 attempts on the season.

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 106.5 (11th), G-State 105.9 (12th)
D-Rating: G-State 105.2 (13th), Toronto 108.6 (26th)
Pace: G-State 99.7 (21st), Toronto 89.9 (25th)
Strength: G-State 3FG% (1st, 38.8%), Toronto Ball Control (2nd)
Weakness: G-State Forcing Turnovers (28th), Toronto Fouling (30th)

I find it shocking that the Warriors, despite having players who are known as being poor individual defenders, rank so high in defensive rating. Mark Jackson has very emphatically quieted the critics who didn’t like his hiring, and guys like Lee, Landry, Jack and Barnes have provided more defense than expected. In prior years, you see “Warriors” and you think “shootout” but that seems unlikely tonight. I could say, though, that I’m equally surprised to see the Raptors so high on offense, but the flip from good-D-no-O to good-O-no-D has been covered pretty extensively.

The Picks
Vegas: Warriors -1.5
Hollinger: Pick ‘em
Blake: Warriors by 7

Perhaps I’m still just shell-shocked from the unguarded Kyrie winner, but I don’t see the Raptors hanging with the Warriors and their strong shooting. David Lee will be a big problem and could get the thin frontcourt rotation into foul trouble, while the Raptors don’t have an answer if the Warriors start pouring in triples. Toronto has started to do a great job forcing teams off the three-point line (which is generally a better indicator of defense than three-point percentage), and that’s a very good start for guarding against this team. One option will be to roll with a two-point guard look since the Warriors play small at times – this would give the Raptors some semblance of floor spacing to help even out the three-point category, but even then someone still has to chase Curry around screens. Sorry, but I don’t like the team’s chances tonight.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on TSN.

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