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Before their inspiring win against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors ranked in the bottom third of the league in terms of three-point shooting percentage. In that match, four of the Toronto Raptors six bench contributors didn’t miss from three-point range as the team shot a brilliant 55% from three for the game.
Efficiency is the name of the game for the Toronto Raptors. Head Coach Nick Nurse has made it a point to encourage the team’s average shooters to attempt three-pointers while allowing the teams more skilled shooters to have more creativity in the mid-range. This inverse logic has lowered their overall shooting three-point percentage to 35% on the season, but has created optimal floor spacing for the teams more talented offensive assets in F Kawhi Leonard and G Kyle Lowry.
It is difficult to say whether or not the Toronto Raptors have truly found their form from three. Lowry has had his ups and downs shooting this season, but remains the leagues premier playmaker. If the Raptors’ bench is locked in from range, it will be a long night for the Golden State Warriors. If not, the Toronto Raptors will face similar difficulties to what they had in previous losses.
The Golden State Warriors are riddled with injuries. F Draymond Green (toe), F Alfonzo McKinnie (foot), and G Stephen Curry (Groin) are all ruled out for this match against the Toronto Raptors. While the Toronto Raptors have had their fair share of injuries, it is only G-F Norman Powell who is left out of the Thursday night match.
For most teams this amount of injury to starters and reserves would almost definitely spell doom. However, the Golden State Warriors are still able to rely on the sharpshooting prowess of G Klay Thompson and two-time NBA Finals MVP F Kevin Durant.
It will truly depend on the remaining, depleted Warriors squad to share the load in order to win an upset against the healthier and NBA-leading Toronto Raptors. Durant and Thompson accounted for 67% of the offensive total for the Warriors in a win against the Orlando Magic. Look for Golden State to ask more from G Quinn Cook who shot a paltry 3/10 against the Magic and G-F Andre Iguodala who attempted only one field goal in the same match.
Last years Toronto Raptors had a bench that terrorized the NBA on both the offensive and defensive end. However with the shuffling of lineups and styles while dealing with a number of injuries to begin the year, the Toronto Raptors bench has been off to a slow start.
So far no Toronto Raptors bench player, who was not a starter last season, is boasting an equivalent or better effective field-goal percentage (eFG%) to his previous campaign. You can partially blame it on familiarity as they are coming into the season without G Demar Derozan, with new F Kawhi Leonard, and have promoted Nick Nurse from assistant to head coach. However such transitions do not explain the lack of conversion on open shots—that is purely focus and execution.
Nick Nurse has made it a point to combine F Kawhi Leonard and G Kyle Lowry with certain bench combinations to maintain the steadiness of their offensive and defensive efficiency as the match wears on. However against a depleted Golden State Warriors squad, the Raptors’ Bench Mob surely hopes to regain their rhythm while giving the Raptor stars a deserved rest.
If you haven’t been keeping up, F Kevin Durant is absolutely filling up the scoreboard for the Golden State Warriors. In Durant’s last three matches he has scored 32, 44, and 49 points to account for the brunt of the Warriors scoring total. Durant has shown himself to be absolutely unstoppable against the NBA’s stout competition.
We will see his greatest challenge of the season as Durant faces off against who is one of the NBA’s most transcendent defenders in Toronto Raptors F Kawhi Leonard. Tall, strong, and with a wingspan that is only marginally shorter than Durant’s (0.04m difference), the former Defensive Player of the Year Leonard surely does not want to be added to Durant’s list of victims.
Durant is already one of the most unstoppable offensive forces the NBA has ever seen. His size and skill is truly unique and has allowed him to carry the injured Golden State Warriors to a 15-7 record. If Kevin Durant can hold the weight of his team on his shoulders in Toronto, we might see one of the early seasons great upsets.
The last time F Kawhi Leonard faced off against the Golden State Warriors he was wearing the black and silver of the San Antonio Spurs. It was Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and the Spurs held a 21-point lead with eight minutes to go in the third quarter. Then was the injury heard around the world, as Leonard rose up for a jump shot C Zaza Pachulia slid his feet under the airborne Spur causing Leonard to land unevenly and sprain his ankle. The rest of the series was a wash.
While Pachulia no longer wears Warriors yellow, Leonard surely has a bone to pick with the San Francisco based team. He has been in and out of the lineup for the Raptors this season in order for Toronto training staff to monitor his body after an almost full season without full contact, 5-on-5 play. However after an inspired win in Memphis, coupled with his squads first nationally televised game in a contract year, Leonard is sure to put on his best effort.
Kawhi Leonard will be matched up against some rangy defenders in G-F Andre Iguodala, G Klay Thompson, and F Jordan Bell. While not an offensive savant the likes of Durant, it shouldn’t be a problem for Leonard to initiate his offence against any of the Golden State defenders.
The Toronto Raptors want this to be a preview of June 2019 in the NBA Finals. Injuries aside, the Raptors need to dominate the competition in a nationally televised match to show the NBA that Golden State needs their biggest guns to compete with them. Common criticism of the Raptors lies in their playoff failures in the past playoffs, so defeating the NBA’s reigning champions will be an excellent step toward dispelling that narrative.
The depleted Golden State Warriors want to compete in this game. To show the Toronto Raptors and the NBA that they are formidable even without MVP Stephen Curry, All-Star Draymond Green, and upstart bench contributor and former Raptor Alfonzo McKinnie will remind the world of the NBA hierarchy. The Warriors don’t particularly need to win this match for prestige, but with the positional jockeying in the Western Conference a single win could decide the fate of an NBA team come time for playoff seeding.
Can Durant and Thompson shoulder the load for one more victory against the NBA’s best?
Which Warrior player will step up to support their remaining stars?
Can Kyle Lowry take advantage of the Warriors shallow guard lineup?
Will the Raptors bench step up again to take down the current champions?
The oddsmakers have the Toronto Raptors favoured over the Golden State Warriors with an over/under of 109.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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