The Golden State Warriors are grinding through their winter East Coast road trip, and were grateful to snatch a 127-125 victory over the tricky Toronto Raptors. That “W” makes twelve consecutive road wins, second in franchise history only behind their 14 straight wins during the 73 win season of ‘15-’16. Let’s jump right into four gold-blooded musings about last night’s thrilling contest!
Champs overcome impatience and exhaustion
Much of the NBA world has been eagerly anticipating Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday clash between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. And with good reason, as that matchup will give a few more clues to a likely fourth straight NBA Finals clash between the two later this summer.
For the champs to get there, they had to first deal with a different perennial Eastern Conference playoff team in Toronto, on Saturday night, in front of rapper/actor/Toronto native/Warriors groupie Drake.
Overlooking the Raptors could have been a fatal mistake. The Raptors are a tough out on their floor (15-3 home record), even though they are currently without injured All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. In fact, these same Raptors had completely humiliated the bumbling Cavs only two days prior in the Air Canada Centre; these “Barneys” are no joke.
Compounding that daunting task was this interesting tidbit on the scheduling, courtesy of ESPN:
Even the mighty Warriors aren’t impervious to fatigue, especially considering the circumstances they face in this brouhaha. It’ll mark their third game in four days, their fifth game in eight days, and the second of a back-to-back set. And let’s not forget the travel involved. First, they’ll host the Clippers in Oakland on Jan. 10, then they’ll fly to Milwaukee -- losing two hours in the process -- to face the Bucks on Jan. 12. Then, after facing those swarthy Bucks, the Warriors will head out that same night for Toronto -- losing another hour in the process ... and probably more time as they pass through customs, so who knows exactly when their heads will hit the pillow at their downtown Toronto hotel?
By the way, the title of this piece is called “Schedule alert! Every game tired teams should lose in January”. So, yeah, with all factors involved, if the champs had let this game slip away, it wouldn’t have been too big of a shock.
Then again, these Warriors really, really, hate to lose. Their competitive spirit wills them to victories in situations a lot of teams don’t have the intestinal fortitude, nor the mental toughness to handle.
Warriors start strong, wheeze to finish
When the Warriors are locked in and in rhythm, they unleash historically terrifying scoring binges that can completely demoralize their opponent. We witnessed one of those last night with their vicious opening salvo against Toronto in the first half. It started with their nuclear first quarter, which stunned the boisterous Canadian crowd into concerned murmurs.
Golden State's 43 first-quarter points are the team's most in an opening frame this season and the Warriors' 10th 40-point quarter of the 2017-18 campaign.— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) January 14, 2018
Warriors offense crisp in that first quarter: 43 points, 0 turnovers, made 17 of 23 shots, only needing 2 from Curry. Klay/Draymond both had 10, KD 9.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 14, 2018
Why were the Dubs bloodthirsty so early? Was it because of the return of greatest point guard alive, Stephen Curry? Did it have anything to do with Drizzy’s new Curry and Durant tats? At any rate, the Splash continued raining well into the second quarter.
Warriors finish the first half with 81 points, their first 80-point half on the road since Nov. 2, 1990 at Denver (87 in the first half).— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) January 14, 2018
Steve Kerr on the 81-point, 22-assist, 1-turnover first half: "Probably the best offensive half of basketball I can ever remember" pic.twitter.com/N6YgT2bjeo— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 14, 2018
The score after two periods was 81-54! I literally almost finished this entire recap during the halftime show, with the since-scrapped title going to be, “Warriors Destroy Toronto; Nothing Was The Same”.
Unfortunately, the Raptors refused to just go extinct from the two quarters of cataclysmic destruction. Raptors All-Star and Olympian Demar DeRozan spearheaded a downhill attack using the pick-and-roll to wear down the Golden State defenders (more on this later). Toronto’s newfound aggressiveness forced the Warriors, on their road-weary legs, to struggle to keep in front of them, especially in transition.
The more the Raptors pressed the issue offensively, the more difficult it was for the reeling Warriors to stop dunks and pick up open shooters. Eventually, the crowd got back into it, the Raptors began to run down the champions.
A bolt of Lithuanian lighting! pic.twitter.com/91ogl79CRq— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 14, 2018
The Raptors outscored the Dubs 71-46 in the second half! Yikes. As a fan, watching the Warriors fade down the stretch, only to stop the bleeding seconds before the final buzzer, was painful but ultimately a relief.
The scariest pick-and-pop of all time
A big reason the relief eventually came was a heavy dose of the two-man game between Curry and Kevin Durant. Before you go any further, you should check GSoM’s very own Apricot’s brilliant analysis of why this two-man action is the Warriors ambush weapon that is only featured in specific, high leverage situations.
Per the Mercury News, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was quite clear about his thoughts on that play as he discussed it with reporters after the game:
With Curry back on the floor and the outcome still in question, the Warriors turned to Curry and Durant to run pick-and-roll sets to take advantage of matchups. They do not normally do that, as it contradicts the team-oriented play that Kerr preaches.
“The game gets stagnant if you just run pick-and-roll over and over again,” Kerr said. “You have personnel around those two for that play to make sense. If you do it the whole game, other guys don’t get involved.”
But, I mean, what’s the point of having a Lamborghini in the garage if you don’t take it out for a spin every now and then? Watch the Curry/Durant pick play get revved up: Durant as the ball handler and Curry as the screener to guarantee a bucket with the clock winding down to close the first half.
Here it is again to ensure a heartbreaking dagger with 30 seconds to go in the game. This one features a more traditional set up: Curry handling the ball while Durant gives a speedy hip graze as a screen.
Is lil’ Curry a superior screener than his giant buddy, Durant?!
This play was used heavily throughout the second half, and postgame Durant explained the purpose it serves the team.
KD on the usage of the pick-and-roll with Steph Curry tonight pic.twitter.com/RJGHiHfGrZ— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 14, 2018
DeRozan is a bright star
After watching Lou Williams ring us up for 50 points last week, it was pretty frustrating to watch DeRozan blast us for 42. Check it out:
I wasn’t sure if he’d ever make the leap from “athletic scoring option” to “leader of a franchise”, but this dude can score take over at anytime... He sure would look great coming off our bench behind Klay Thompson in the future! Bob Myers, work your magic baby!
I kid, I kid, but that was an amazing performance. His confidence is through the roof right now, and it’s clear that the Warriors respect him.
Who was the Warriors Wonder in the Raptors win?
This poll is closed
Oh, you thought I forgot? STEPH CURRY!!!!!!