It could have been the greatest two-game stretch in Raptors history, two opponents coming to town that have hooked up in the past three NBA titles, two of the most elite teams in basketball with some of the greatest names the sport has to offer.
What could have been was replaced by the reality of a 1-1 record, an improbable rout of the Cavs, who blew out the Raptors in last spring’s playoffs and a near-improbable comeback from 27 points against the mighty Warriors.
There are no moral victories in the NBA, a point head coach Dwane Casey would hammer home in the aftermath of Saturday night’s 127-125 loss at the ACC. But this was an ugly night early on, turned competitive in the second half and then turned on a bad call when Jakob Poeltl was called for a foul on Steph Curry.
In basketball parlance, it’s known as a reputation foul, but the official should have kept his whistle in his mouth.
Poeltl, DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 42 points, Fred VanVleet, C.J. Miles and Pascal Siakam played with energy, passion, fight, all the qualities the Raptors did not show in getting blown off the court in the opening 24 minutes.
By the break, Golden State led 81-54, the Raptors in a complete state of shock. Toronto, which played hard from the opening tap to the final whistle Thursday against Cleveland, played scared, intimidated by the presence of the Warriors, which welcomed the return of Curry. Golden State played the previous night in Milwaukee.
“I’ll take responsibility for the way we came out in the first half,’’ said Casey. “Maybe I didn’t give them enough confidence, but when we came out in the second half with swagger and toughness, which you’ve got to have to play against a great team like that, you put yourself in a position to win.
“You shouldn’t spot them 27 points. I’m not saying you’re going to stop them, but still, you don’t give them the shots they were getting, almost like a layup line. In the second half, we did a much better job.”
Serge Ibaka was back from his one-game suspension, but he was hardly inspiring.
The player the Raptors did miss was Kyle Lowry, who sat out his third straight game with a bruised tailbone. Lowry sets the tone, especially against an elite team such as Golden State.
The catalyst on this night was VanVleet, who plays tough. His buzzer-beating three-pointer made the final score look close, and it was, but at the same time it wasn’t given how dominant the Warriors were in the opening half.
“I was proud at the way the guys competed in the second half,’’ said Casey, whose team outscored Golden State, 36-19 in the game’s final 12 minutes. “That’s the team we’ll go places with. First half we gave them way too much respect.”
The Poeltl foul was brutal.
“That was a backbreaker,’’ said Casey.
Curry, who is among the greatest shooters ever, missed both free throws.
Earlier, Miles, who got fouled from distance, missed two of his three attempts from the line.
As feeble as they were in the first half, the Raptors were resilient and played with force in the second half. The way they played the game’s final 24 minutes was how they played for the entire night when LeBron James and the Cavs came to town Thursday.
“I thought our team really, really competed at a high level in the second half,’’ added Casey. “Once they believed: ‘Hey, we can beat this team.’
“In that first half, we gave them way too much respect. Don’t get me wrong and no disrespect to Golden State, but we did not compete with the confidence and swagger you’ve got to have in the first half.”
Curry, Kevin Durant, who made some key late-game baskets from the top of the key, and Klay Thompson combined for 75 points.
VanVleet, Siakam and Poeltl came of age in the final period, 12 minutes when the Raptors left everything, and then some, out on the floor.
Ultimately, the Raptors lost because they lost their way in the opening half. They needed Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas to come up big and neither did.
Toronto did come back and had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but a DeRozan attempt over Durant with the Raps down one in the final minute rimmed out.
When there’s such a scoring threat such as Durant to put the ball in his hands, he delivers. Once he catches and turns to face the basket, a team’s only chance is for Durant to miss. In crunch time, he does not miss and the Raptors were left to lament a missed opportunity.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies