The Raptors are not as good as the Warriors. Watch any regular season game from the latter — or better yet, their multiple runs to the Finals — and it often feels like the two teams are not even close. Golden State just has too much talent, too many killer shot makers, and, naturally, a surplus confidence.
Then again, the Raptors lost another close one to the defending NBA champions, this time by two points, 127-125. That’s the fourth time in five games it’s happened over the past three seasons. (That one other time saw them give up a huge first quarter lead before trimming into a competitive-looking 10-point final deficit.) That the Raptors had to comeback from 27 down, after giving up an 81-point first half, puts the final score in perspective. That the last meaningful plays for both teams were the same — an elbow jumper miss by DeMar DeRozan while down 1, followed by a make by Kevin Durant in the same spot to put the Warriors up 3 — makes them feel much closer. (And hey, Kyle Lowry wasn’t even playing in this one.)
Still, there are no moral victories in this league. Coach Dwane Casey said that afterwards, unprompted. Fred VanVleet said it too. We were all saying that, or thinking it. As time passes, this will calcify into another L in the Raptors’ record books, and we’ll forget all about the particulars of the game. That’s the way it goes.
We’ll forget about the exciting, hopeful first quarter where the Raptors fell behind by 8 despite 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting by DeRozan. We’ll forget about the complete ineffectiveness of most everyone else on the team. We’ll forget about the zipping ball movement of the Warriors and the impossible shooting — Golden State was 74 percent for the quarter, which dipped to, uh, 71 percent for the half. We’ll forget about how dejected we felt at halftime, sure that this game was over and done with, certain there was nothing left to see here. DeRozan said the team was too “antsy” and he’s not wrong about that, for what it’s worth now.
We’ll forget about the Warriors 25-4 run that blew the game open between the first and second quarters. And we’ll also forget how the Raptors didn’t quite give up. We’ll forget the fearless play of rookie OG Anunoby, perhaps too young and inexperienced to know when to quit, as he was asked to defend Durant, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry at different times of the game. We’ll surely forget his 17 points too.
We’ll forget how the Raptors entered the fourth down by 19 points, with the Warriors now shooting 63 percent from the field. We’ll forget DeRozan’s 36 points by this point. We’ll forget that moment when Jonas Valanciunas, with 12 points and 9 rebounds for the night, pump-faked Draymond Green out of his shoes and threw down a vicious dunk. We’ll forget about Pascal Siakam’s extremely loud 6-point, 6-rebound performance in which he swarmed every Warrior on the court when given the chance. We’ll forget how VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl and C.J. Miles were completely invisible for three quarters before scoring a combined 22 of their 24 points in the fourth. Don’t even mention Poeltl’s late block on Curry that was called a foul — we’ll forget all about that too.
Most importantly, we’ll forget some of those other questionable calls. We’ll forget DeRozan getting hammered by three Warriors as he made the lay-up anyway. He finished with 42 points, a total we’ll be hard-pressed to remember later. We’ll forget, yes, that Poeltl block. (Jak has already moved on: “No comment,” he said.) We’ll forget about that bizarre scene in the dying seconds, as the referees went in for the review to check if Curry had been the last to touch the ball as it went out of bounds, and then discovered that it had been out earlier as DeRozan tumbled to the floor. We’ll forget that technically speaking this is not a thing the review system is supposed to be able to do. Who knows, we’ll probably forget to file a protest with the league. What can you do?
There’s no doubt in my mind these things will happen. It’s just the nature of the NBA; it’s also human nature (or at least, ideally, it should be.) As Casey said before the game, “there’s another gunslinger coming around the corner.” Win big against the Cavaliers on Thursday, lose a tight one to the Warriors on Saturday. Philadelphia is up on Monday. W, L, on to the next one.
The Raptors are not as good as the Warriors. There are no moral victories in the NBA. And once again, it was a close game, a narrow defeat, an almost.
Yes, we will forget a lot about this game — but not that.