Warriors, Raptors meet in early showdown
Premature? Perhaps. But the Warriors (15-7) are favorites to win another NBA title this season despite some recent struggles and the Raptors (18-4) have the best record in the league.
“They’re going to be a great test for us,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “Who knows? It might be a preview of June. They got something really special up there in Canada right now.”
The Raptors have won six in a row after coming back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Grizzlies on Tuesday night in Memphis.
The Warriors have won three consecutive games after defeating the Orlando Magic 116-110 at home Monday night.
“Right now, they’re the best,” Thompson said. “I expect them to be there throughout the whole season.”
“That’s nice of him to say that,” said Raptors reserve guard Fred VanVleet, who scored 12 of his 18 points on Tuesday in the fourth quarter. “Klay’s probably one of the deadliest guys in the league, so it’s funny when guys who are that cold-blooded on the court make nice comments.”
“I think Klay’s being very gracious, and we thank him for that,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
There has been speculation that Warriors star guard Stephen Curry could play Thursday after missing 10 games with a left groin injury. He practiced with the team on Tuesday, but coach Steve Kerr has indicated that his return could wait until Saturday when the Warriors visit the Detroit Pistons, the second stop on a five-game road trip.
“He’s right now entering the point where we can finally say, ‘All right, is it time?'” Kerr said. “That’s all based on (director of sports medicine and performance) Rick Celebrini’s decision. He’s had athletes in the past who have had groin injuries, come back and had no symptoms and had a setback because they just didn’t take the full time. It’s not enough to just say ‘OK, Steph feels good, we can throw him back out there again.’
“But with that said, I think we’re very close to the time where we can say, ‘All right, there’s been enough time.’ He’s pain-free, the symptoms are gone, and ultimately Rick will make the decision when he’s comfortable putting him out there. My best guess is Detroit, but we’ll see what happens.”
Draymond Green (right toe sprain) and Alfonzo McKinnie (sore left foot) are both listed as day to day by the Warriors. Green has been out nine of the past 11 games and McKinnie has missed the past six.
“It’s just another regular-season game,” Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard said. “It’s just another challenge. … I pretty much look forward to playing any game that I play. If it’s not (Kevin Durant), it’s somebody else.”
Seventeen points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday gave him double-doubles in a career-best three straight games.
The game against Memphis was the first of a more difficult schedule coming up for the Raptors. One cautionary aspect of their starts is that they have had it relatively easy based on their opponents’ records.
Nurse said he looks forward to playing a tougher schedule.
“That’s good, man,” Nurse said. “We want some good tough games. You’ve got to play them when they are. Nothing we can do whether they are easy or hard or whatever. There’s tremendous parity up and down the league this year. I think it’s much more than people thought it would be at the start of the year.”
The Raptors have lost eight consecutive meetings with the Warriors, but Toronto has not been this strong before.
“I think naturally there’s a little more buzz and juice around the game, right?” Nurse said Wednesday. “These guys are walking around a little bit, people are telling them way before (Tuesday) night’s game how big a game Thursday’s is. So they’re getting that. They feel it.”