Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
After a big comeback win in Memphis that extended their win streak to 6 last night, the Raptors will return home for a game with the Golden State Warriors. Toronto still holds the best record in the NBA at 18-4, and now sit 2.5 games ahead for first place in the Eastern Conference.
As Klay Thompson said earlier this week, this could be a preview of what’s to come in June. The Warriors are only 15-7 right now, but they’ve had injuries to key players, and once they’re healthy they should run through the Western Conference. As for the Raptors, they should be the favourite in the East right now. That doesn’t mean they’ll meet in the finals, but it’s definitely a realistic possibility that we see a Golden State vs. Toronto Finals.
Many people were speculating that Thursday’s game would mark the return of Stephen Curry, who has been out since November 8th with a groin injury. However, Curry isn’t expected to play tonight, and neither is Draymond Green, who’s dealing with an injury of his own.
Those injuries definitely give the Raptors a better shot to win the game, but honestly, I would’ve rather seen the Raptors take on a full-strength Warriors team so that we could really see how they stack up. Golden State is still a well above average team with just Durant and Klay Thompson in the lineup, so it’s not going to be an easy win for the Raptors by any means. But I still would’ve rather seen Curry and Draymond in the lineup tonight, even if it meant a loss for the Raptors.
Kevin Durant will play tonight though, which sets up one of the best one-on-one matchups of this NBA season; Durant vs. Kawhi. Durant is currently averaging just over 29 points per game, while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists per game, while Kawhi is averaging 24/8/3. Both of these guys can obviously score at will, either driving to the rim and shooting from anywhere on the floor, but they’re also playing great defensively. Durant is getting a steal and a block per game, and Kawhi is averaging almost 2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.
As for Klay Thompson, the Raptors will probably guard him with Danny Green, who not only has experience guarding Klay from their rivalry with the Spurs, but is also their second best defender behind Kawhi. With Curry and Draymond out, the Raptors need to make the Warriors depth players like Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook take more shots and force the ball out of KD and Klay’s hands. If those guys beat you, I’d be very surprised, but you can’t let their stars beat you single-handedly because they have relatively no support behind Durant and Thompson.
One of the best parts about having Kawhi Leonard on your team is that he guards the other team's best player, and tonight we’ll see him on Kevin Durant. I’m looking forward to that back-and-forth throughout the game.
The Raptors don’t get on national television all that much, but tonight they get to show the basketball world that they’re legit, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.
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