They’ve never met in the playoffs. For some reason, though, when the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors meet up, fireworks ensue. Wednesday night was another thrilling game, with Toronto putting in their best effort of the young season. It was the last two minutes that broke them, as the Warriors showed their prestige and the Raptors proved old habits died hard.
The Warriors ended up winning 117-112, moving to 3-2 on the season. Toronto falls to 2-2.
The Raptors had a five-point lead with 1:53 left in the game, on the backs of a few sensational performances. DeMar DeRozan was a two-way catalyst — not often we say that about him — as he got his 24 points on 18 shots, six assists, and three rebounds. More impressive is he turned into an NFL safety, repeatedly breaking up Warriors outlet passes to the tune of six steals.
There was a lot of unexpected to be had. Pascal Siakam got the start with an injured Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira sitting with ankle injuries, and lit it up in the third quarter. A pair of threes and a few beautiful layups pushed his point total to 20, to go with two rebounds and two assists.
The young guys are fine, even against good teams. Jakob Poetl had his best game in a Raptors uniform, his 12 points and 14 rebounds belying energy from end-to-end. Poetl has a knack for finding pockets to get passes, something that no other Raptors big really has. On Wednesday, he repeatedly got in deep on the Warriors’ undersized lineups, finding easy baskets.
It was so much damn fun, but then those last two minutes came.
The last four Raptors possessions were pure isolation. Three play calls for DeMar DeRozan started at the top of the key, without a pass, and ended in a contested shot. One for Kyle Lowry went without a screen, as Lowry forced a difficult turnaround jumper over noted Kyrie-stopper Klay Thompson.
It was a frustrating conclusion, and an eye-opener after three games that didn’t come down to clutch possessions. Toronto deviated from the team they’re hoping to become, and went back to those ugly possessions that dogged them in previous post-seasons. Needless to say: that will have to change.
Of course, it’s hard to be too upset. This is the Golden State Warriors the Raptors were up against. Steph Curry finished with 30 points, five assists and four rebounds. Kevin Durant made two clutch shots during his team’s closing 10-0 run, finishing with 29 points of his own. Klay Thompson had 22. That the Raptors were in it showed just how well they played, despite a serious deficit in household names.
Next up for the Raptors, a Friday reprieve against the young Los Angeles Lakers. Here are a couple other observations from Wednesday night:
- Lowry’s jumper isn’t broken, but a lot of his shots are coming up short and it looks like he isn’t getting his usual leg power. I’m no BBALLBREAKDOWN, but the 1-for-8 night from three looks fixable.
- The wider problem for the team is everyone else’s struggle with the three-point shot. C.J. Miles was just 2-for-8, the team was just 8-for-34, and it’s hard to blame Lowry and DeRozan for hoisting shots at the end of the game when Pascal Siakam is your most reliable distance shooter. The Raptors are shooting the third-most threes in the league (Golden State, Houston) and making them at the fifth-worst clip. At some point, something has to give.
- The trend of Serge Ibaka’s strong starts followed by a slow tapering off is starting to frustrate. Poetl and Siakam both outplayed him in the second half, and he failed to close on Kevin Durant during two key possessions in the last two minutes. Ibaka needs to get his conditioning up if the team is going to thrive with him playing two positions.
- I love OG Anunoby, and you do too. He had eight points, four rebounds, and two assists in this one, and like Poetl, he gets into the right places and has tremendous instincts with the ball. His shot looks pretty wacky right now, but the fact that Casey can play him without the team noticeably suffering (ahem, Bruno) is awesome for his growth.
Rook ain't shy to let it fly pic.twitter.com/zrbtAygnfh— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 26, 2017
- Fred VanVleet played just six minutes and looked intimidated by the Warriors defense. Delon Wright, though, continues to thrive. He played 29 minutes, third-most on the team, and made a few insanely athletic plays — one where, falling out of bounds after an uncalled foul, he managed an over the head pass to a cutting DeRozan, who threw it down.