Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors (-4.5, 214 o/u)
Unlike previous years when the talented squad teased fans with the occasional sparkling performance, the Toronto Raptors (24-8, 10-5 away) are the real deal this season and lead the Eastern Conference. The Dwane Casey-led team continues to impress and compete against all levels of competition, night in and night out.
The Raptors almost earned some respect for the oft-derided Eastern Conference on Tuesday, taking the Northwest Division-leading Trail Blazers to OT on the road. However, the Raps couldn’t get it done in the extra frame, falling 102-97.
Despite the loss, Casey found some positives from his team’s performance. “I love the way we competed in a hostile environment,” Casey said. “If you can compete in that environment, the way we did [Tuesday], you can compete in a lot of places.”
The Raptors will have another chance to boost the East’s credentials tonight, when they visit the top team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors (25-5, 12-1 home) at Oracle Arena. The Warriors are currently on a ten-game winning streak at home, and backup center Marreese Speights, who is filling in for the injured Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, deserves a ton of credit for keeping the Warriors on track.
“Speights is having an unbelievable year shooting the ball,” Casey said. “They’re a well-rounded team offensively and they [haven’t compromised] their defense. People see all the offense, but they forget how good of a defensive team they really are.”
Added Golden State coach Steve Kerr, “I didn’t play him [much] a couple games and he just stayed ready. Then he got himself in the rotation and he’s been in ever since. Mo’s had a fantastic season scoring and doing his thing.”
As for a return of Bogut (chonodromalacia/bone edema) and Ezeli (left ankle sprain), it doesn’t sound like Kerr spends much of his time worrying. “They are doing better and they are on the court moving around, but I don’t really spend a lot of time asking them,” said the coach.
Both teams have great offenses, averaging an identical 108.1 PPG on the year; but tonight’s matchup will really be about the Warriors’ tough defense, which not only allows only 98.2 PPG (good for ninth in the league) but also forces 16.3 turnovers per game.
On the year, only 13 of the Warriors’ 30 games have hit the over; add in the fact that both teams are struggling with injuries, and the under (214) looks like the right play.
(Photo credit: michalkajzerek (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode].)