Klay Thompson: Raptors-Warriors game a potential Finals preview

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson drives against Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam in an NBA game on Jan. 13, 2018. (Cole Burston/CP)

They may not be at the top of the standings in the West, and are a mediocre 5-5 over their past 10 games, but there’s no real doubt regarding the Golden State Warriors‘ status as the prohibitive favourite to reach the Finals — and win it all this season.

For all the purported drama between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, the cloud of Durant’s impending free agency, and the absence of Steph Curry — who is on the mend and expected to return to the lineup this week —  the Warriors remain the team to beat.

But the NBA’s best team through the first quarter of the 2018-19 season resides in the East, and more specifically in Toronto, where the 17-4 Raptors have come out of the gate with the best mark of any team. And they’ve gotten the Warriors’ attention in the process.

The Raptors are Golden State’s next opponent, the two teams slated to square off on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. On Monday night the Warriors wrapped up their third-straight win, erasing a 17-point deficit to beat the Orlando Magic, thanks in part to a 49-point performance from Durant.

After the game, Warriors star Klay Thompson was asked about their next contest and his take on the Raptors’ place among the East’s contenders.

“Right now they’re the best, and I expect them to be there throughout the whole season,” Thompson told reporters. “They’ve got tremendous length and so many two-way players. Obviously Kawhi (Leonard) is back and playing at an MVP level. Kyle Lowry is a great leader, as well as a bulldog out there. So it’s going to be a great test for us. Who knows, it might be a preview of June. They’ve got something really special up there in Canada right now.”

The Warriors could get a major boost later this week, as Curry has reportedly returned to full-contact practice with the team after missing 10 games with a groin strain. He is expected to see the court during his team’s upcoming East Coast road trip, which begins in Toronto on Thursday.

As for the Raptors, tempting as it may be to look ahead to their marquee matchup hosting Golden State, they have a more immediate challenge ahead of them on Tuesday night, where they’re in Memphis to face the 12-7 Grizzlies who entered this past weekend in first place in the West and have been one of the NBA’s early surprises this season.

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