It’s hard to imagine it after they lost the first two games of the season by a combined 65 points, but if the Golden State Warriors win today — in a game they’re favored to win — they’ll be 6-4, and comfortably near the top of the Western Conference.
Considering that the Warriors have maintained all along that it will be a steep learning curve to start the season, a 6-4 pace through the first 10 games would be a big win.
But they’ve got to get there before we celebrate the achievement. It’s only one game, but 6-4 looks a whole lot different than 5-5.
Who: Golden State Warriors (5-4) vs. Toronto Raptors (2-6)
When: 5:30 p.m. PT
Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, California
TV: NBC Sports Bay Area
Projected starting lineups:
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, James Wiseman
Raptors: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Alex Len
Warriors: Beat Clippers 115-105, 3-2 in their last 5 games
Raptors: Beat Kings 144-123, 2-3 in their last 5 games
Team ratings (garbage time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass, rankings prior to Saturday’s games):
Warriors: 109.0 offense (20th), 112.1 defense (21st), -3.1 net (23rd)
Raptors: 112.4 offense (11th), 114.4 defense (23rd), -2.0 net (22nd)
After Friday’s sensational win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Steph Curry was asked if the win sent a message to the league. His response felt like more of a message than the actual game.
Steph Curry asked if the win sent a message: “No messages necessary, my man. We know who we are … we love the fight.”
— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) January 9, 2021
If the Warriors want to establish themselves as a player in the West, and a firm postseason squad, than they need to take care of the struggling teams. So far, so good: the Dubs are 3-0 against teams with losing records.
The Raptors figure to be a good team eventually, but they’re struggling mightily to find their footing out of the gate. They have a ton of talent and a very good coach, and they’re a danger on any given night.
Yet they’re still a team the Warriors ned to handle. I’ve been saying nearly every game that it’s a barometer for the Dubs … and that’s exactly what this game is.
Players to watch
Warrior to watch: Eric Paschall.
Paschall has thrived since Marquese Chriss broke his leg, forcing Steve Kerr to use the second-year player as a small-ball center. After another strong outing on Friday, Paschall said that he has the strength to bang with opposing centers, but more speed than they can handle.
After starting the first two games of the season (at power forward, for that matter), and scoring in single digits with low efficiency both times, Paschall has come off the bench in the last seven games, primarily at the 5. He’s scored double figures with at least 50% shooting in all seven games.
He’s turned himself into a weapon, and against the Raptors slow-footed centers, he can really do damage.
Raptor to watch: Pascal Siakam.
Fresh off making the All-Star team for the first time, Siakam has had a little bit of an up and down season. He’s had some inefficient games, such as when he had 20 points on 8-for-23 shooting, while fouling out against the Philadelphia 76ers. And he’s had some superstar games, such as in Friday’s win against the Kings, when he recorded 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 12 assists on 7-for-11 shooting.
He’s a star, without a doubt, and can lead Toronto to victory on any night. Shutting him down is one of the first priorities for the Warriors, and one way to do that is by getting him in foul trouble: he’s fouled out of two games, while recording five fouls in three others.
Matchup to watch: James Wiseman vs. the Raptors centers
It seems like the matchup to watch has been “James Wiseman vs. opposing center” more times than not this season. And it makes sense, given that Wiseman has disappeared at times this year (as one would expect from someone who has played 12 basketball games since high school), while being dynamic at other times.
The Raptors have struggled to fill the hole at center after losing both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency. Aron Baynes started the first seven games of the season for Toronto, but his offensive passivity was brutal: he shot just 37.8% from the field, chucked a bunch of threes despite making just 18.8% of them, and didn’t attempt a single free throw in those seven games.
Toronto turned to Alex Len on Friday (with Baynes not even playing), but things weren’t much better. Their best center this season has been former Warrior Chris Boucher, but the Raptors seem hesitant to give him heavy minutes.
Wiseman has an opportunity to give the Warriors an advantage at center, as does Paschall. They both need to be aggressive.
Keys to victory
- Get Pascal Siakam in foul trouble early and often
- Find rhythm with the bench unit again, on both ends of the court
- Have a high-intensity first quarter with no letdown after Friday
- Shoot better than 35% from beyond the arc
Bank that win, Dubs.