Toronto rapper Drake looks up at Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) as he inbounds a ball during second half NBA basketball action against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Saturday January 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Toronto rapper Drake looks up at Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) as he inbounds a ball during second half NBA basketball action against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Saturday January 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Raptors coach Nurse managing expectations ahead of much-hyped Warriors visit

TORONTO — The league’s hottest team versus the two-time reigning NBA champion.

If Thursday’s Raptors’ game versus Golden State in Toronto wasn’t already the most eagerly anticipated matchup north of the border this season, Klay Thompson cranked up the hype machine, suggesting it might be a “preview of June.”

“Right now they’re the best, and I expect them to be there throughout the whole season,” the Warriors shooting guard told reporters. “They’ve got something really special up there in Canada right now.”

And so much of the talk at Wednesday’s optional practice in Toronto was about not getting caught up in all the fuss.

“I think Klay is being very gracious, and we thank him for that,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “He’s going out of his way to not give us any ammunition to be excited about.

“I don’t really give a darn who we are playing or what our record is or what their record is. I want us to go out and keep getting better. Fight. Fight through some adversity. Keep looking for some more connections, looking for some more options, more rotations, growing. I think there’s still tons of growth for this team to perform.”

The Raptors are coming off their sixth consecutive victory, a come-from-behind 122-114 victory in Memphis, while the Warriors have won three straight despite missing Steph Curry. The two-time MVP suffered an adductor (groin) strain strain on Nov. 8 and hasn’t played since. The Warriors initially suggested Curry might return against Toronto, although coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday his “best guess” was he wouldn’t be back until Saturday’s game versus Detroit.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who was a perfect 6-for-6 for 18 points in Memphis, wasn’t buying into the pre-game hype.

“I’m not at that stage of my career yet where I can look down on anybody or look up to anybody. I’m going out there and I’m trying to cut everybody’s throat, I don’t really care who it is,” he said.

He grinned when queried about Thompson’s pro-Raptors comments.

“That’s nice of him to say that. Klay is 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,” VanVleet said. “But who knows? We have a lot of work to do. They are established as champions, and it’s our job to knock them down, but we have a lot of work to do between now (and the playoffs).”

Raptors star Kawhi Leonard also wouldn’t bite on the potential NBA finals preview hubbub.

“It’s still early, it’s just another game to build off of and get better, go out and challenge those guys, to score, also to defend, same thing we do every night. It’s a long road,” Leonard said.

The Warriors have won the last eight meetings between the two teams, but the Raptors didn’t have Leonard, whose defensive intensity will be particularly valuable in guarding Kevin Durant.

Nurse noted he hadn’t thought ahead to who’s guarding who, but pointed out that, in the aim of being versatile and flexible, he threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Marc Gasol and Mike Conley on Tuesday night.

“Kyle (Lowry), Fred, Danny (Green), Kawhi, OG (Anunoby), Pascal (Siakam) — I wanted them all to guard him some just to eat into him some, because those two guys are so good,” Nurse said. “That’s some of the versatility we’re talking about, and that’s really where we’re trying to grow defensively, to where we can take a number of people and put them on the go-to guys.

“I imagine there will be several people guarding the main guys (Thursday).”

While the Warriors have looked vulnerable at times this season, largely due to injuries and uncharacteristic infighting, they arrive in Toronto on a roll.

“Listen … their last three (games) obviously Klay and KD are playing unbelievable, but the rest of those guys they’re playing hard,” Nurse said. “They’ve got a chemistry and a rhythm with this group now, playing their butts off.”

Thursday’s game is the second in a gruelling stretch of the schedule for Toronto. The Raptors were blessed with a charmed early-season schedule, but the Grizzlies game was the first of 14 games in which 11 are against teams with high winning percentages. They face Philadelphia twice, Milwaukee, Indiana, Denver twice, the Western Conference-leading L.A. Clippers, and the Warriors again on Dec. 12 at Oracle Arena.

Just Posted

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) as TJ Brodie (78) defends during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Atletico Ottawa defender Vashon Neufville controls the ball during Atletico Ottawa’s first team practice of their inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League in Ottawa, Wednesday June 3, 2020. The Canadian Premier League plans to kick off its third season mid-June to early July in one location without fans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie
Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Most Read