The Warriors began a five-game road trip on Thursday night in the Great White North, facing off against the Toronto Raptors. Though Stephen Curry and Draymond Green’s absence took a bit of the luster off of this meeting, it was still one of the most anticipated and interesting matchups of this young NBA season. The game certainly did not disappoint.
There were great performances by All-Stars, gritty games from bench players, and a miraculous three-point shot to send the game to overtime. Though the Warriors fought back to push things to that extra frame, they still came up just short and lost the game to the Raptors, 131-128.
Kevin Durant is really good at basketball
Early in this game, especially in a first quarter when the Raptors led by as many as 18 points, it looked like this game was over and the Warriors were on their way to a blowout loss. Kevin Durant had something to say about that.
Durant turned in his third-consecutive stellar game, scoring 51 points on Thursday night. It was Durant’s sixth-career game with 50+ points, his first 50+ point game of the 2018-19 season, and the most points he’s scored since joining the Warriors.
Durant’s performance against the Raptors also put him and his teammates in some pretty rarified air.
Per @EliasSports, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson join the 1961-62 Lakers trio of Elgin Baylor, Rudy LaRusso and Jerry West as the only sets of three teammates to each record a 50-point game in the same season.— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) November 30, 2018
One would’ve expected such a large point total to mean that it was an inefficient game for Durant but that wasn’t the case. Durant shot 58% from the field, going 57.1% from three-point range and 91.67% from the free-throw line.
Durant’s points came when the Warriors needed them most. In a third quarter when the Raptors pushed their nine-point halftime lead back up to 17 points, Durant almost single-handedly kept the Warriors in the game with his scoring. Durant dropped 18 points in the third while scoring 9 points in the fourth quarter, including 7 points in the final 1:20 of regulation.
Durant forced the game into overtime with this ridiculous three-pointer while being forced into the corner as Kawhi Leonard, one of the league’s best defenders, was right in front of him contesting the shot.
Though the impressive scoring numbers are the most eye-catching part of Durant’s night, he made contributions in other facets of the game. Durant had 11 rebounds against the Raptors along with 6 assists. Durant also frequently took on the challenge of guarding Leonard, something that can frustrate and befuddle even a good defender like Durant.
While we’ve seen great scoring performances from Durant throughout his career, this was a great performance in many facets of the game. The fact that Durant was able to score like this while also positively affected the game in those other ways really speaks to how he’s developed as a complete player since joining the Warriors. The Warriors didn’t get the win but it was still an amazing game from the back-to-back Finals MVP, one that on just about any other night would be more than good enough to seal a victory.
It goes without saying that we’ve witnessed the roughest patch of Durant’s Warriors tenure these past few weeks. But his play the last four games has been stellar and should go a long way in helping Warriors fans appreciate just how special of a player he is.
Rough night for Jones, great night for Looney and Jerebko
Though he had some positive contributions during the Warriors’ three-game winning streak, Damian Jones had an extremely rough game against the Raptors. The Raptors made a point of attacking Jones whenever he was on the court, getting him switched onto Leonard or Kyle Lowry and taking advantage of the big man. In just under 11 minutes of action, Jones was a -20 and didn’t pull down a single rebound.
While Jones struggled, Kevon Looney shined on Thursday night. In just over 26 minutes, Looney scored 7 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while posting a team-high +18. In the closing minutes of the game when Warriors were able to get the game into overtime, Looney came up with some big plays, including a put-back on a missed Durant layup.
The Warriors got another boost off their bench from Jonas Jerebko. Jerebko was a +12 in nearly 33 minutes, scoring 20 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. It was Jerebko’s highest point total since joining the Warriors and the most he’s scored in a game since the 20 points he dropped as a member of the Boston Celtics on February 25, 2015 against the New York Knicks.
Game slips away in OT
In the extra period, the Warriors let things get away from them as they made bad decisions that allowed the Raptors to hang on and walk away with the victory. The Warriors turned it over five times in overtime, after turning it over just 10 times in regulation.
Andre Iguodala had a particularly rough overtime with two turnovers, including a suspect traveling call when the Warriors had a chance to tie the game with under a minute to go. Durant, who had been doing most everything for the Warriors on this Thursday night, attempted just one field goal in overtime while also having his sole turnover of the game.
Empty possessions and poor choices doomed the Warriors in the extra frame. In many ways, this game reminded me of the game against the Los Angeles Clippers that we’d all like to forget. The Warriors battled back when the game seemed more-or-less lost but once it got into overtime they just didn’t have enough to get the win.
After the game against the Orlando Magic on Monday, Klay Thompson alluded to the fact that the Raptors are a team that the Warriors could face if they make it back to the NBA Finals. On Thursday night, they looked like a team that could go far in the postseason.
If they do, their defense will be one of the biggest reasons why. Between Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka, they have long and athletic defenders who can create problems, especially for a team like the Warriors. They were flying at Durant and Thompson, contesting their shots and throwing the occasional (and disruptive) double team their way.
I couldn’t help but be impressed with Siakam, who scored 26 points. Siakam and Ibaka (20 points, 4 rebounds) did enough to complement Leonard’s 37 points and 8 rebounds, which led the Raptors, to make sure the team got a win over the defending champs. Lowry scored just 10 points against the Warriors but he did hand out 12 assists and pull down 8 rebounds to contribute to the victory.
While the Raptors do look different from the teams they posted in previous seasons, some old bad habits returned. This was seen most clearly on the final play of regulation, when the Raptors had the ball and a chance to win the game.
Raptors couldn't even get a shot off pic.twitter.com/IYiZmOaeza— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 30, 2018
In these tight moments, the Raptors sometimes looked shaky and hesitant. It even happened to Leonard, who has a NBA championship and a Finals MVP to his name. Passing the ball too much because they don’t want to take a shot, not getting a shot off in the final seconds of regulation, these are things that you can’t afford to do in the postseason and the kinds of things that have doomed the Raptors in previous seasons.
The Raptors look better than they did in previous seasons and they have elements of their team that can give the Warriors trouble. But I still think the Warriors have a healthy edge especially when some of the players on our bench in street clothes return to the lineup.