“Warrior coming,” yelled Stephen Curry an hour or so before he and his teammates were scheduled to take on the Raptors.
Curry then bounded out of the team’s locker room past a grouping of media gathered to listen to head coach Steve Kerr and leapt high into the air a couple of times, the first sign that the two-time NBA MVP was going to return to the lineup after sitting out a couple of games due to an ankle injury. Curry then ran out to the court and proceeded to go through his extensive, highly entertaining pre-game dribbling and shooting warmup which features one-legged shots, which test his balance, and three-pointers launched from near mid-court, among other things.
Then the Warriors went out and dropped a season-best 43 first-quarter points on the stunned Raptors on 74% shooting.
“Warrior(s) coming” indeed.
The truly scary thing about the scoring bonanza: Curry only notched two of those 43 points and just six of the team’s season-high 81 in the opening half.
Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson had 20, fellow MVP award winner Kevin Durant had 15 and Draymond Green had 12 points, eight assists and was an absurd +33 as the visitors built a 26-point lead on a group of Raptors that had just throttled Cleveland and had the East’s best home record.
Other notable first-half stats: 22 Warriors assists, one turnover.
But things shifted from there, with the Raptors turning it up several dozen notches defensively in frustrating the Warriors into just over half as many points the rest of the way.
The Raptors closed the gap to one with 32 seconds remaining, but Durant shut the door with a jump shot after a DeMar DeRozan miss.
The final was 127-125, thanks to a Fred VanVleet three-pointer nailed at the buzzer.
Curry, who spent part of his childhood in Toronto when his father Dell played for the Raptors, got a massive ovation when he was introduced, but looked a tad rusty early following his layoff.
Curry had averaged 30.2 points per game in 15 career meetings vs. Toronto heading in, the most by any player, ahead of Allen Iverson (29.7) and LeBron James (27.6). His teammate Durant sat sixth at 26.4.
Curry finished with 24, including a large, run-stopping three pointer late, Durant 25.
MOVING UP AGAIN
DeRozan needed to score more than 20 points to pass Damon Stoudamire for third in career points-per-game as a Raptor behind Vince Carter (23.4) and Chris Bosh (20.2). Stoudamire, Toronto’s first star, averaged 19.6 points a night as a Raptor, the same number DeRozan had managed heading into the game.
It only took DeRozan a quarter to all but match the figure, as he scored 19 on the way to a game-high 42.
DeRozan passed Carter with his 92nd career game of 30 points or more.
The Raptors don’t get much respect Stateside because of the team’s record of playoff stumbles, but there is no question that Toronto has been an elite regular-season team for years now. That should be mentioned more often around the league, but it isn’t, which led to a humorous Dwane Casey exchange after shootaround on Saturday morning.
It was pointed out to Casey (he didn’t need the reminder) that only the Raptors (third in offence, fourth in defence) and Warriors (one and three) rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, he had a quick response.
“Well we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re kind of just this old country school up north,” Casey said with a smile.
“That’s the narrative. We understand that and we accept that.”
Raptors broadcaster Jack Armstrong, one of the best people in the business, went on a solid rant earlier this week on TSN1050 about an age-old problem in this country: How basketball fans are underserved.
The most salient points included questioning the wisdom of Bell and Rogers banishing Raptors games to channels that many don’t subscribe to, instead of more easily accessible channels. Armstrong pointed out that as co-owners, shouldn’t they be trying to generate more interest?
“You would think this would be front and centre … and a lot of times all you hear about is the Leafs and all you hear about is hockey,” Armstrong said.
He also noted that Toronto is the only NBA team without a post-game TV show even though it is the third-largest market.
The Raptors took the traditional Saturday night slot from the Maple Leafs for this one and the crowd was far louder than any you would hear at a hockey game here with the Raptors surprisingly threatening midway through the final quarter.
RESPECT FROM KERR
Kerr said he is impressed by the way the Raptors transformed into a club that passes the ball far better than they used to.
“Very unique. I don’t know if there’s another example … but it is different when you see a team change philosophically with the same coach and a similar roster,” Kerr said.
“Really impressive. They’ve adapted, play a much faster, wide-open game, the ball is moving much more, they’re much tougher to guard.”
Kerr added that it’s fun to play a team in the other conference that could be waiting down the line in the Finals.
“When you do get a chance to see these guys you file it away for later, in case,” Kerr said.
The Raptors only lost by six points earlier this season at Oakland and only fell by five in this one minus Kyle Lowry.
AROUND THE RIM
There was no special treatment for global ambassador Drake. Drake and his pal had to wait a couple of minutes to get to their courtside seats like anybody else would have until a stoppage of play early in the first quarter. Drake wasn’t shy about letting the referees know about their work … Overheard on press row in the second quarter: “It was over before it started.” Not so much, as the Raptors showed a lot of heart in battling back and taking the game down to the final seconds … It was Toronto’s eighth loss in a row against the Warriors, but five of the past six have been by six points or fewer.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies