Fast Forward: Warriors look to protect Oracle against Raptors

Warriors return home for battle with Raptors

Fast Forward: Warriors look to protect Oracle against Raptors
December 3, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Rudy Gay is averaging 19.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 35.8 minutes per game for the Raptors this year. (USATSI)

DeMar DeRozan and Klay Thompson are both 6-foot-7 offensive standouts from the Pac-12. (USATSI)

Programming note: Raptors-Warriors coverage tips off tonight at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)

OAKLAND -- With 11 of their first 18 games on the road, the schedule has not been kind to the Warriors. And with three of their top six players being sidelined for multiple games, neither have the gods of good health.

Yet coach Mark Jackson claims he is not the least bit bothered.

"I've never addressed it," he said. "And we will never address it as a team. Everybody is going to go through injuries. Everybody is going to go through a tough part of the schedule."

Such a philosophical outlook might come easier when the very next game is at home, against a team that last won in Oakland since when Eric Musselman was coaching the Warriors.

That would be the Toronto Raptors, who somehow sit atop the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference despite losing their last three games and lugging a 6-10 record.

Asked about this spurious powerhouse, Jackson simultaneously expressed fear and concern -- all with a straight face. As he should, for the Warriors have lost five of their last seven.

"They have guys that can take over games, scoring at different positions," Jackson said, singling out explosive wings Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan. "The bigs are guys that can hurt you on the offensive boards and, obviously, Kyle Lowry is a proven guard that has displayed the ability to take over games."

And don't think for a minute that this exact message has not filtered down to Jackson's players.

"They have guys . . . Rudy Gay, who can take over a game," forward Draymond Green said. "DeMar DeRozan, who can take over a game. Kyle Lowry, who can take over a game."

And yet . . .

"One thing, coming into this year, we said we wanted to do," Green added, "was win the games that we think we should win and definitely protect our home court."

Green did not predict victory. He simply implied this is a game the Warriors should win.

He's right.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Klay Thompson vs. DeRozan. It's two 6-foot-7 wings from the Pac-12, Thompson from Washington State and DeRozan from USC. It's DeRozan's high-flying athleticism against Thompson's dogged defense and terrific 3-point shooting. Though DeRozan leads Toronto in scoring, Thompson is having the superior season.

Harrison Barnes vs. Rudy Gay: Two similarly athletic 6-foot-8 wings from East Coast power schools, Barnes from North Carolina and Gay from UConn. This is a challenge for Barnes, as Gay is an impetuous sort most comfortable when he's attacking. So far this season, he's shooting only 38 percent from the field.

Andrew Bogut vs. Jonas Valanciunas: It's the veteran 7-foot Aussie against the young 6-foot-11 Lithuanian. Valanciunis is an emerging player who will make Bogut work. But Bogut, who turned 29 last week, could teach the 21-year-old a lesson or two.

ACHES AND PAINS: Though Andre Iguodala (strained left hamstring) and Toney Douglas (stress reaction, left tibia) worked out on the side for the first time in more than a week, neither will play. Centers Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and Ognjen Kuzmic (right pinkie surgery) remain out indefinitely.

KEYS TO VICTORY: Only three teams -- Milwaukee, Charlotte and Cleveland -- shoot worse than Toronto. No team passes with less efficiency, as the Raptors are last in assists per game. If the Warriors play smart defense and contain DeRozan and Gay, it should lead to a home victory.


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