It seems like much longer ago, but in 2019, the Raptors ended the Warriors’ run of five straight appearances in the NBA Final by handing Golden State a loss. Kevin Durant re-injured his leg and was out for the series. The Warriors recovered but then Klay Thompson got hurt, too, and the Raptors earned the rest.
But moving on.
That seems like a long time ago, well, because it was a solid amount of time ago in NBA years, and also because each team is a fraction of what it was in that series.
Durant is long-gone from Golden State, and Thompson is out for the season again. Stephen Curry has led the way, however, as coach Steve Kerr figures how to use the rest of a revamped roster, and the team is holding its own with a 5-4 record before a game against the Raptors on Sunday.
The Raptors are of course missing Kawhi Leonard, who is also long-gone. Forward Pascal Siakam has got off to a slow start. And guard Kyle Lowry said this the other day, after the Raptors lost to the Celtics and their record fell to 1-5.
“We have no swagger to us. We have nothing. There’s nothing to us. Teams are looking at us like, ‘All right, let’s go eat.’ That’s not a good feeling.”San Francisco Chronicle
Ouch. That’s harsh, Kyle. That loss was in the Raptors temporary home this season, Tampa Bay. The change is due to the pandemic. That can’t help the swagger.
But maybe Lowry was the problem. It’s doubtful, since he’s an All-Star. But he missed the Raptors game against the Kings on Friday due to personal reasons, and the Raptors won 144-123, setting a franchise scoring record.
It will be interesting which Raptors team shows up on Sunday at Chase Center, and whether that involves Lowry or not. But regardless, we’ll get a good look at how much each of these teams have changed since 2019, and how much they’ve stayed the same.