The Toronto Raptors fancy themselves a home team. With only two losses at the Air Canada Centre all season long – including a 12-game winning streak that ended Tuesday – the Raptors want to defend their floor and make it a tough place to play. That’s good. It’s important. And it’s a real thing. It’s also a thing that may not matter to the visiting Golden State Warriors, who are a ludicrous 18-3 on the road this season.
“Just the continuity of the program, continuity of the team, they know each other, things don’t change very much for them,” head coach Dwane Casey said at shootaround. “They know what they’re going to do, you know what they’re going to do, now you’ve got to stop it. Whether it’s on the moon, Oracle or the Air Canada Centre, it doesn’t matter, they’re going to do the same thing.”
The Raptors did well at Oracle Arena when they last visited, down their starting center. They let the game get away, though. Through all of the positive momentum building with the new system early in the year, this game stood out as a worrisome counter, where all of the new elements dissipated when a tight game against a good team was on the line. That makes Saturday a nice testing ground, though the Raptors feel they’re a different team by now, anyway.
“I looked at our film defensively also, we gave up so many easy buckets in both those games, and definitely in the Golden State game,” he said. “The lack of physicality, the lack of crispness on our switching gave them angles to the basket. So there are a lot of things I think we’re doing better now than we were earlier in the year, offensively and defensively.”
They get a chance to show that growth and measure themselves up against the champs again Saturday night. It’s never a bad time to get to do so, whatever in/out/rest caveats color the matchup.
The game tips off at 7:30 on TSN 4/5 and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
There was no firm update on Kyle Lowry at shootaround, as he remains a game-time call (“questionable”) for this one.He won’t play here, as Casey revealed pre-game. That would open up more time for Delon Wright, who has filled in nicely over two games, Fred VanVleet, once again the plus-minus god, and Norman Powell, now back on the right foot. Raptors 905 even kept Lorenzo Brown’s minutes down so he can try to give Steph Curry the Goran Dragic/Kyle Korver treatment he handed out in his last two appearances.
Lowry’s absence will be felt all over the floor. Serge Ibaka is back, at least, to help add some 3-point shooting, rim protection, and switchability, a must against the Warriors. An interesting wrinkle relative to the last meeting between the teams (when the Warriors won by five in Golden State) is that Jonas Valanciunas will be available here. Yes, Valanciunas can pose some defensive problems (he’s been better over the last six weeks or so), but the Warriors start Zaza Pachulia at center, hardly a bad matchup for him inside, though he’ll surely be put in a lot of pick-and-rolls. The Raptors also saw Thursday the kind of damage Valanciunas is capable of against smaller teams that can be susceptible on their own glass – Golden State is never really all that small given their size all over the floor – and Valanciunas could be a positive factor here.
PG: Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles, Malcolm Miller, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Kyle Lowry
The Warriors didn’t hold shootaround due to the back-to-back scenario, so Steph Curry remains probable. As a reminder, Curry has missed the last two games due to a right ankle sprain but was said to be targeting Friday or Saturday. Joining him on the injury report are Andre Iguodala (questionable) and Omri Casspi (questionable). Casspi sat Friday, too, and considering it’s the third game in four days and the second night of a back-to-back for the Warriors, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Iguodala get the breather. Or anyone else, on short notice. It’s the Warriors.
Steve Kerr probably isn’t sweating much anyway. The Warriors have won 11 in a row on the road, almost every lineup they use regularly is a positive (the starters with Iguodala in place of Pachulia, the new “death lineup,” is surprisingly a negative in small minutes), and the team is even 11-4 without Curry.
UPDATE: Curry will play, Iguodala will play, Casspi sits.
PG: Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook
SG: Klay Thompson, Nick Young, Patrick McCaw
SF: Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala
PF: Draymond Green, David West, Kevon Looney
C: Zaza Pachulia, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee
OUT: Omri Casspi
Santa Cruz: Chris Boucher, Damian Jones
- Voting for the NBA All-Star Game is now open. You can refresh yourself on the voting procedures here. Make sure to hit that hashtag #NBAVote for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (separately – double-player tweets don’t count). Voting ends Monday.
- Raptors 905 completed the G League Showcase earlier Saturday. Bruno Caboclo and Malcolm Miller played regular minutes, while Lorenzo Brown was capped at 19 as insurance for this evening. Alfonzo McKinnie did not play, as he’s a little banged up, though he’s technically with the Raptors here. I know Miller and Brown will be active tonight, so McKinnie and Caboclo will be around but likely inactive.
- A great quote from Casey on how little respect the Raptors get despite being in the top five on both ends of the floor: “Well we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re kind of just this old country school up north. That’s the narrative. We understand that and we accept that.”
- Another good quote from Casey here on turnovers against the Warriors:
Casey: "I’d rather throw the ball up in the 15th row than to give (the Warriors) a live ball turnover. At least an usher has to go up in the stands, get the ball, give it the referee, the referee takes it out & now you get your defence set. They kill you with live ball turnovers"
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 13, 2018
The Raptors are 4.5-point underdogs. The line’s hovered between Warriors -3.5 and -4.5 throughout the day, and Lowry and Curry confirmations figure to maybe bump it a little further in one direction (or cancel out). The over-under is up to 227. UPDATE: It’s now Warriors -5.5