Programming note: Warriors-Raptors coverage Sunday at 12:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)
When the Warriors left Oakland on Feb. 23 for a six-game road trip, they surely knew three of those battles would be particularly challenging. They lost the first such contest, last Wednesday in Chicago.
The second tough test comes Sunday afternoon at 1 (PST), when the Warriors (36-23) visit the Raptors at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
The Raptors (32-26) currently hold the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, and have won eight of their last 11 games. They are 25-14 since the blockbuster deal that sent forward Rudy Gay to Sacramento.
Toronto on Thursday lost in triple-overtime at home to Washington but has not lost back-to-back home games in more than two months (Dec. 1).
And purely from the standpoint of incentive, the Raptors can't possibly forget the 112-103 loss in Oakland, where the Warriors trailed by as much as 27 points and entered the fourth quarter down by 18.
Nobody hurt the Raptors more during the late rally than Klay Thompson, who drained four of his game-high six 3-pointers in the final quarter. Thompson, who had been struggling, showed signs of revival, scoring 25 points in Friday's 126-103 win at New York – his highest scoring output in six weeks.
“I could have had a better (game) . . . it felt great to put up 126 points,'' Thompson said. "We played well defensively. I thought we got back to what we do well and it is huge going into playing a good Toronto team.”
Coach Mark Jackson suggested there is more to the shooting guard's game than scoring.
"There are people that, quite honestly, don't appreciate what Klay does on a nightly basis,'' Jackson said.
The coach pointed out that Thompson is the most durable player on the roster and that he often defends the opposing point guard and sometimes the most dangerous perimeter player.
That's probably not what the Raptors remember about their last meeting with Thompson. They remember the bombs that keyed a 42-15 fourth quarter, costing them a game in Oakland.
Expect Thompson to make every effort to remind them his shooting display was not a one-night show. The Warriors likely will need all they can get Sunday for a game of crucial significance. The Pacers, with the league's best record, with be waiting on Tuesday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Iguodala/Thompson vs. DeRozan. Among scorers in the East, only Carmelo Anthony (32.2 per game) and LeBron James (30.8) were more prolific than DeRozan (26.4) in February. Klay and Andre will have to stay in front of this ferocious slasher and keep him from ripping through the defense.
Curry vs. Lowry. Lowry is a notoriously streaky shooter, capable of carrying the Raptors for stretches of the game. He has managed to continue scoring while becoming a more productive playmaker.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Protect the rim. The Raptors like to soar toward the bucket, so Bogut will have to avoid foul trouble. 2) Own the glass. The Warriors, superior rebounders for most of the first half, have fallen off. That would cost them here. 3) Keep Klay rolling. With so much attention focused on Curry, Thompson's offense becomes pivotal.
For the Warriors, C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and G Nemanja Nedovic (left hamstring strain, right foot inflammation) are out.
For the Raptors, G Kyle Lowry (sprained ankle) and F Terrence Ross (sprained ankle) are listed as day to day.
Warriors 7-3, Raptors 7-3.
The Warriors have won 11 of the past 13 meetings, including a 112-103 victory at Oracle Arena last Dec. 3.