OAKLAND -- The Golden State Warriors' drubbing of the Toronto Raptors could serve as a prime example of how good this Warriors team is and how well they play together. Because we've only so much time, we'll focus on the game as a prime example of individual influence, of an MVP case for Stephen Curry and a defensive player of the year case for Draymond Green.
The Curry MVP case resonates more on the national level for obvious reasons. He's a household name by now, leading all West players in All-Star votes. Still, Curry's true value hasn't totally sunk into the national consciousness. Teams guard him in a wholly different way, fearing his unique ability to fire 25-footers off the dribble. This opens up gaps in a defense.
Friday night, it was the trap, with two Toronto defenders flashing out to squeeze Curry in the pick-and-roll. Unlike in a certain movie, Curry didn't need the help of a metal ladle to evade two advancing Raptors. He either found an open man quickly or juked his way out of the trap, dragging two hapless defenders around the court. The end result was 32 points, 12 assists, 0 turnovers, and a scintillating dunk in transition over the chasing Kyle Lowry. Whether Curry dunked "on" Lowry is already a topic of debate and Curry has weighed in: "He jumped, didn’t he?", Curry offered. Yes, Lowry leapt to block what became a roaring dunk. There's a case to be made that it’s Curry's first jam on an opponent. Just don't try making it north of the border.
That MVP case, though, might be easier to argue. The Warriors have the best record and the best point differential. Curry is a massive part of that because teams must change their established pick-and-roll schemes just to deal with him. It's why the Warriors post an offensive rating that would lead the league when Curry is on the floor. For comparison's sake, when Curry sits, the Warriors post an offensive rating that would be second worst. This is only slightly different from last season, when Curry on the floor resulted in better than the top ORTG and what would qualify as the very worst while he sat. For the second straight season, he's leading all players in total plus-minus.
Curry's massive offensive influence can be subtle because he's not always doing the scoring and passing out of these plays on which he's double-teamed. On Friday night, Green was the safety valve, turning these 4-on-3 situations into 16 points and 13 assists.
Speaking of Green, if you're looking for a sleeper DPOY candidate, look West. The former second-round pick guards four positions, protects the rim and acts as the most crucial player in Golden State's heavy switching scheme. He was, again, defensively ubiquitous on Friday. He ably guarded big man Jonas Valanciunas and hounded an array of Raptors guards.
Since rim protector Andrew Bogut went down on Dec. 8, the Warriors have still managed to perform at an elite level defensively. It's a collective effort, but one in which Green has mattered the most. To date, Golden State remains the top-ranked defense.
It was easy to get down on the Warriors after another frustrating Bogut injury. To be sure, they're worse without him. But in Bogut's absence they've displayed an impressive amount of talent and cohesion. The blowout of the Raptors featured key performances not just from Curry and Green but also from Klay Thompson, Marreese Speights, David Lee and even newcomer Justin Holiday. The Warriors are deep, and they can credibly tout an MVP and DPOY candidate. If they qualify as less than a Finals favorite, there's really no way to convince people in this regular season.