The great teams are great because they always manage to do just enough of the little things to win. In every game there may only be a half dozen moments to decide the outcome, but when you tally it up, those same great teams are winning those moments more often than not. Now 21-0, the Warriors are a great team. But the Raptors, an aspirational squad if ever there was one, are always game to give it their best shot. "We're gonna compete tonight, I promise you that," said coach Dwane Casey before the game. A few hours later, the Raps would be looking at a 112-109 loss, and you could count the few breaks that just didn't go there way.
But first, speaking of great things: Steph Curry, full stop. The most insane notion about his astounding 44 point, seven assist performance today wasn't the 9-of-15 from 3, or the 14-of-24 from the field. It wasn't even his defense on Cory Joseph in the dying seconds, the heartbreaking moment when the reigning MVP knocked the ball off Joseph and back into the Warriors' possession with seconds on the clock and the Warriors up three. No, the most insane thing about it was that he wasn't even playing his best. This is the margin in which the Warriors are now operating in. A pedestrian performance nets their best player 44 points and a close win. Twelve turnovers gets the opposing team 18 points... and a three point loss. "We might not play our best game, but we found a different way to win," Curry said afterwards.
On the Raptors' side of things, it remains positively Sisyphus-ian. Kyle Lowry, who never looks like he's not working his absolute hardest, muscled his way to 41 points and seven assists, on 14-of-26 shooting (including 6-of-10 from three). It would have been the most remarkable performance of the game if not for Curry and his casual brilliance. Unfortunately Lowry was largely let down by the teammates he's come to rely on. DeMar DeRozan shot an awful 5-for-19 in an actively harmful game, Bismack Biyombo was totally ineffective, Luis Scola was run off the court, and DeMarre Carroll, despite solid defense and an injury excuse (the plantar fasciitis has to be playing a factor here, right?), was hampered.
The bright spots for the Raptors were surprises. First and foremost, Lucas Nogueira had himself a game--14 points on 7-of-9 shooting (mostly as the beneficiary of rolls to the rim with Lowry), five rebounds and bouts of sound defense. Bebe will still find himself out of position at times or get confused on D, but given Biyombo's total zero on offense right now, Nogueira suddenly looks like the better option for minutes. Who thought we'd be here in early December?
The other gold star performance was from Patrick Patterson. Much has been made of his shooting numbers being way down (37% from the field down from 45% last season, 34% from 3 down from 37%), but Patterson found a way to be effective. He grabbed ten rebounds in the game and was able to guard basically anyone on the Warriors--I can recall one possession where he chased Klay Thompson on the perimeter, and others where he protected the rim. Sure, Patterson had only four points and missed his two three-pointers, but it's the kind of heady game the Raptors need from him.
But really, this game came down to Lowry vs. Curry. The transcendentally great vs. the learned excellence. On one end there was this:
Which Lowry was quick to match with this:
At this moment the Raps were down one, Lowry was going to the line and there were 44.2 seconds left. It felt like Toronto could win. But then Lowry missed the free throw, the two teams got into a back and forth of fouling, and on the Raps' final chance, there was Curry knocking the ball off Joseph, separating the great from the good, rolling things back down the hill on the Raptors.
So, Toronto loses 112-109, and gains, yes, another moral victory over the Warriors. Golden State hit just enough shots, grabbed just enough big rebounds and made just enough plays to win.
Against a historically great team like the Warriors, it'll have to be enough for the Raptors.
What did you guys think of the game?