The Raptors are playing four of the best Western Conference teams in six days on this mini-but-massive road trip. After the real Kyle Lowry stood up for last night’s game against the Clippers, the Raptors are playing three of the best Western Conference teams in five days with a gigantic (and relieving) win already under their belt.
They’ll enter tonight against a much different looking Golden State Warriors team than the one that made life this difficult for them less than two weeks ago.
That Warriors team took the Raptors to overtime without the likes of Draymond Green and Steph Curry, now both healthy and both terrifying. Make no mistake, this is a measuring stick game and one that even Kyle Lowry will likely treat differently.
To help me preview a legitimate Finals preview I brought in the one and only Nitz Bluvstein, a twitter legend whose brutal food-takes are only outdone by her excellent basketball ones. Her two favourite teams are the Raptors and Warriors…though she’ll tell you it’s not in that order.
What are the Warriors going to do to slow them down tonight?
Nitz: Kawhi is going to be Kawhi and do Kawhi things, no matter who you send at him. But when Lowry is finding difficulty in creating his shot or just flat out refusing to shoot or drive to the basket, Raptors suffer. I think you attack there and throw off the heartbeat of the team.
The Warriors are healthy again, and therefore scary again. Outside of the return of Curry and Green to the lineup, what else has sparked the recent win streak and leap up the standings
Nitz: Well, that’s obviously the biggest thing. Steph is the more important piece by far, but Green’s presence and the little things he does really contribute to the Warriors dominance on both sides of the court — so both of them being back is huge for the resurgence. That being said, I think you can credit the recent spark to some of the joy that’s coming back to the squad. We saw it early on in the season, but when Steph is out there and the Warriors are playing at their best, the joy they have doing it brings out another level from them.
Golden State is dominant, and when dominance is present people search for things that could end it. Is the injury to Damian Jones as important as every Warriors’ blog makes it out to be?
Nitz: No. To be completely honest I wasn’t even aware this is a real take. Losing any piece hurts your team because you have to adjust, but DJ didn’t move the needle for the Warriors like that. He was struggling to really contribute a lot of the time, and I’d likely put in Bell/Looney before him regardless. Then Boogie is coming back into the lineup soon. And quite frankly, even Kerr’s kumbaya rotations method wouldn’t factor him in during the playoffs as a key piece.
Assuming Kawhi is healthy tomorrow – this will be a good look at a potential Finals matchup. Coach Steve Kerr is playing at home, with a now-healthy squad albeit one that he’s still trying to get firing on all cylinders. Is this a big game? Or as Kyle Lowry puts it..”just another game?”
Nitz: It’s just another game in the grand scheme of things. Lowry (minus an amazing performance versus the Clippers) has been in a weird slump. I personally don’t expect it to last but if we see glimmers of that slump tomorrow, it’s hard to reliably judge his performance against the Warriors then. It’s still a big game to look at how players match up against each other but end of the day, it’s a regular season game and it’s still early in the season. Both teams are still heavily playing around with their rotations so it’s not overly indicative of what that potential finals matchup will look like.
What matchup are you most excited about?
Nitz: Let Steph cook Lowry. But honestly, it’s all about KD vs Kawhi.
Outside of Lowry+Leonard, is there a Raptor you’re worried may dominate tonight?
Nitz: The only other players who feel like a threat of having a crazy game would be Ibaka or Siakam, who have been really solid this season. And with the defense likely focused on Kawhi and Lowry, that could just happen. Also side note — if JV dominates against my team, I’ll be upset.
Thank you for all but guaranteeing JV goes off tonight. Rapid Fire time.
Do you ride with Steph or is the moon-landing for sure real?
Nitz: Steph forever.
Where’s KD next season? Do you care?
Nitz: I care because if KD stays, this could be one of the greatest duo runs of all time. But also, no, I’ll respect whatever decision he makes. Send him to the Knicks. But kick out Dolan beforehand.
Better home crowd – Raps or Dubs?
Nitz: I’ve been to both and can confidently say Dubs. Raps fans are definitely fun though.
Who’s the MVP of tonight’s game?
Gimme a score prediction:
Nitz: 120-115 Dubs
TV: TSN| Radio: Sportsnet 590 The FAN | Tipoff: 10:30 EST
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: Danny Green, Delon Wright
SF: Kawhi Leonard (questionable for tonight’s game), OG Anunoby, CJ Miles
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas Greg Monroe
PG: Stephen Curry, Quinn Cook, Shaun Livingston
SG: Klay Thompson, Patrick McCaw, Jacob Evans
SF: Kevin Durant, Andre Igoudala (missed Monday’s game – questionable for tonight), Damion Lee
PF: Draymond Green, Alfonzo McKinnie
C: Kevon Looney, Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Bell