The choice to celebrate this years global ambassador Drake the night the Warriors were in town wasn’t a mistake. Entering this season the Raptors were undefeated on “Drake Nights”. The first two Drake Nights were against the Brooklyn Nets during the years where the rivalry between the two teams was strong, last year it was the Cleveland Cavaliers dropping a close battle to the men wearing black and gold jerseys. Why not see if celebrating Drake night could be good luck for the Raptors and go against the NBA Champion favourites?
This years Warriors team is very different, last season in their first matchup the Warriors were in the middle of a 24-0 start to their season, this season they are a stellar 8-2 entering tonight but not playing at the same level as they were in the beginning of last season. The roster looks different as well, the obvious addition of Kevin Durant helps their cause, but this team has also lost a lot of depth defensively, and struggle at the centre position except in their small-ball lineup when Draymond Green plays the five.
This game wasn’t set up in the Raptors favour from the start, coming off a back to back and losing the night before to the defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers on the road. This is simply scheduling cruelty, but it wasn’t all over before it began. Last season the Raptors gave the 73-9 Warriors a tough fight in both games, the first meeting in Oakland the Raptors would lose 115-110, the second in Toronto where the Warriors would win by three, 112-109. These games were incredibly close, and very tough battles for the best regular season team of all time.
In the first the Raptors would come out of the gate hot, containing the Warriors on offence by switching and recovering really well on their tricky/amazing ball movement. On offence, the Raptors would show off some slick ball movement themselves, with so much attention on controlling the scoring of DeMar DeRozan, he would do an excellent job of drawing doubles, passing out of them, and the Raptors would find the open man. The Raptors would score a blistering 38 points in the first quarter, shooting an impressive 5/9 from three, and hold the lead for the entire quarter.
The second quarter wouldn’t go as well for the Raptors. The Warriors would catch fire while the Raptors offence would go cold, and fatigue from the back to back was starting to set in and it was obvious on both ends of the floor. The Warriors would hold the Raptors to 15 points in the second quarter. It was hard to pin point just one thing that killed the Raptors offensively, they missed their fair share of open shots early, they forced some drives instead of using the inside out game mixed in with some great ball movement like they did in the first, and the Warriors simply just stepped their game up defensively. On the other end, the Warriors would go off for 32 second quarter points, on the back of Durant’s 19 first half points.
In the beginning of the third the Warriors wouldn’t let their foot off the gas, and this game was starting to look like a blow out. Around mid way through the third, DeRozan and the Raptors offence would come alive. DeRozan was great at getting to the line, while the familiar ball movement would come back, it was the unselfish play of Cory Joseph, Lucas Nogueira, and Pascal Siakam that helped spark the offence. For as good as the Raptors looked in the third, it was Steph Curry who would keep his team floating during the Raptors hot stretch. The Raptors would pull it to a five point game, but Curry wouldn’t let it get any closer than that.
While the Raptors would fight hard in the fourth quarter and continue to make this a close game, the Warriors were in cruise control and wouldn’t let their lead disappear. The final score 127-121 for the Warriors, Steph Curry would finish the game with 35 points, on 10/19 shooting, Durant would finish with 30 points, on 11/21 shooting.
- Jonas Valanciunas looked amazing on the offensive end tonight. Scoring 12 points, on 6/6 shooting, along with 8 rebounds. It’s very surprising when the Raptors were struggling to score against the Warriors smaller lineups that they didn’t feed JV even if he was a minus on defense it was almost an automatic two points when he had deep post position. Nogueira played really well in the second half, so it’s too bad that JV wasn’t on the floor much in the second half, this just isn’t a matchup that favours JV’s style of play.
- DeRozan wasn’t great defensively for stretches, and forced some shots during the second quarter. Overall he had another efficient scoring night, scoring 34 points, on 8/18 shooting from the field, while being perfect at the line making 17 free throws.
- Cory Joseph who has relatively struggled in the first 10 games of the season looked like a different player today. Scoring 14 points, Joseph would do all the little things on the floor, push the tempo, create ball movement with his penetration. This game was more of what we expect out of Joseph.
- The NBA schedule can be cruel at times.
- The Warriors are a really good team, and so are the Cavs. It would have been nice to see the Raptors go up against the Warriors on equal amount of rest, or any rest at all. It would be a great barometer to see how good this Raptors team is, or if they should make a move to take them to the next level.
- The Kyle Lowry/DeRozan minutes are starting to be a legitimate concern. I have praised Dwayne Casey for his ability to change. He trusts JV down the stretch, isn’t afraid to play his younger players at times, but the amount this team relies on their starting backcourt remains a problem. Tonight both Lowry and DeRozan played 38 minutes, tomorrow is a travel day so I get they should go all out today, I just hope in games against Denver and Sacramento their minutes are reduced.