Before the Raptors’ 119-100 wire-to-wire victory over a depleted Warriors squad, Nick Nurse spoke highly of the visiting team, saying they have played “model basketball,” to date. For at least one night, it was the Raptors that played as close to perfect basketball as you’d hope.
Fred VanVleet was in complete control with a game-high 27 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. Scottie Barnes made sure this wasn’t a one-man show, tallying 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. For Golden State, the man drafted three spots after Barnes, Jonathan Kuminga, led the way with 26 points and an array of driving dunks. However, the story of this game took place before tip-off.
In what’s become a disturbing trend throughout the league, there were a number of players in the injury report. The Warriors made it clear shortly after their victory over the Celtics last night that they would send a slew of core players back to the Bay Area instead of crossing the border. Steph Curry (rest), Draymond Green (right hip tightness), Andrew Wiggins (left knee soreness), Andre Iguodala (right knee management), Otto Porter (left foot management), and Jordan Poole (health and safety protocols) joined Klay Thompson and James Wiseman — who are both recovering from injuries that have kept them out all season.
For the Raptors, the return of OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa was offset by the surprise announcement that Pascal Siakam and Dalano Banton would enter the league’s health & safety protocols. They joined Khem Birch (knee), David Johnson (calf), and Goran Dragic (not with the team) on the sidelines (well, maybe not Dragic).
Apparently, 50% capacity was also meant for the rosters.
The Raptors had as perfect a first quarter as you’d hope, considering how depleted the Warriors were. The VanVleet-Chris Boucher two-man game led to the team’s first five points. Barnes then took over with a cutting layup, cross-court assist to a VanVleet triple, and a bank shot over Chris Chiozza (targeted several times by the Raptors throughout the game) to get Toronto out to a 12-7 lead.
Toronto’s momentum only built from there. The team amassed 9 assists on their first 11 field goals, driving the lead up to 27-12 before Steve Kerr called his first timeout. The quarter was highlighted by a full-court transition layup (and one) for Toronto’s dynamic rookie.
Scottie Barnes muscles through the contact pic.twitter.com/ZTZObhZei8— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 19, 2021
The second quarter looked very similar to the first. VanVleet could have changed his name to Midas because everything he touched turned to gold. He ended the first half with 20 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds on 67/63/100 shooting and 3 steals, to boot. The numbers don’t fully illustrate VanVleet’s impact. Even as the Warriors got a 20-point deficit down to 13, it was VanVleet who reasserted himself, driving through the heart of the defense, earning two from the charity stripe and, ultimately, keeping Golden State at bay.
Barnes continued his outstanding rookie campaign with a sparkling performance on the offensive end. His 6 assists could have very easily reached double-digits. He had an excellent look-away pass from the logo to Justin Champagnie under the basket, who blew the layup. Boucher blew an alley-oop in the lane from Barnes. An outstanding touch pass by Barnes to an open Boucher in the corner, unfortunately, ended with a missed three. If it weren’t for VanVleet’s performance, Barnes was the best player on the floor.
Scottie Barnes is somehow seven years younger *and* older than me. pic.twitter.com/U8NjcC8cYc— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) December 19, 2021
Unsurprisingly, the Warriors' 42 points were their lowest first-half total of the season.
Golden State came out of halftime more focused than the Raptors. Despite Toronto jumping out to a 7-0 start to the second half, the Warriors shot 8-for-12 to close the gap to 78-61.
Kuminga did his part to keep things close, but a 10-0 run by Toronto, thanks to a pair of triples by Yuta Watanabe, extended the lead to 95-66.
For the second time in their last three games, VanVleet was able to sit out the 4th quarter.
Anunoby played the role of starter in Nurse’s patented starter + bench unit, and he looked like he didn’t miss a beat. He found open shooters out of post-ups. He knocked down a pair of mid-range buckets in the flow of the offense. Defensively, he generated a few deflections and was a pest to any Warrior that dared challenge him.
Garbage time doesn’t usually mean much. But with the game out of reach for most of the 4th quarter, Watanabe supplied the highlights (plural) of the night.
After the game, Nurse said he stressed sharing the basketball beforehand and the team responded with 26 assists — two short of their season-high against Sacramento last week. He also spoke about the growing number of players missing games due to health and safety protocols, saying the team needs to “get as much chemistry and fluidity throughout.” VanVleet would echo Nurse’s sentiments by stating the only thing constant is that nothing is going to be constant.
Actually, there is something constant with the Raptors. Regardless of who’s on the floor, they bring something extra when the opponent is Golden State. Toronto is the first Golden State opponent to hit 50% of their shots this season. The Raptors outscored the Warriors inside (50-48 points in the paint), outside (14-11 made threes), in transition (24-11), and from the reserves (43-36). Golden State may be a championship contender, but tonight it was Toronto that played model basketball.