The Toronto Raptors are responsible for making Stephen Curry endure one of the longest postgame walks of his career. Diminished by two devastating injuries, Curry and the Warriors were powerless to stop Toronto from winning the 2019 NBA Finals in the last game played at Oracle Arena.
Much has changed for both teams since then, and the differences will be on display when the teams meet at 5:30 p.m. PT on Sunday at Chase Center.
The Warriors (5-4), in the midst of redevelopment, are seeking consistency. Draymond Green and Curry are the only healthy members of the 2019 team still on the roster. Kevon Looney is listed as “questionable” with soreness in his left hip.
The Raptors (2-6), however, have been far more inconsistent. Though they recovered nicely last season from the loss of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, they have struggled after losing Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol in the offseason and have yet to win back-to-back games.
Here three keys to the underdog Warriors pulling off the upset:
Beat the backcourt
Toronto’s guard tandem of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet is very good and also undersized, neither standing taller than 6-foot-1. But VanVleet is a terrific defender, and he seems to take particular delight in trying to contain Curry.
That might result in some trying moments for Curry, but there is no way Lowry can do much with Oubre. There also is no need for the Raptors to assign a longer defender to Oubre, who has been struggling with his shot.
If Curry and Oubre can outscore Lowry and VanVleet by at least 10 points, it should provide the Warriors with a smooth runway to success.
Win the subs
The Warriors have done a nice of job assembling productive second units, and the stats support this. Their bench is third in assists per game and 3-point percentage, third in points per game and fourth in field-goal percentage.
Much of this is linked to the performance of Andrew Wiggins, who has been the offensive anchor of the squad. It’s the defense, though, that has shown the ability to keep the Warriors in games and spark rallies that give them a chance to win.
Toronto’s bench, once a strength, is 26th in field-goal percentage defense and 25th in 3-point percentage.
Slash and burn
The stout defense that was the primary factor behind the Raptors becoming a contender has not been evident this season, as they rank 20th in defensive rating and have been particularly weak in defending shots in the 10- to 24-foot range.
In short, slashers have torched them. This has a chance to be the game in which not only Wiggins and Oubre, but also Eric Paschall and Kent Bazemore and can attack inside the arc.
The Raptors rank 24th in effective field-goal percentage defense and 24th in rebounding, both stats a byproduct of Aron Baynes and Chris Boucher replacing Ibaka and Gasol.