So, about last night.
The NBA’s best put on quite a show in Toronto last night. The Raptors brought their A-game, but you have to against the defending champs. They didn’t let the pressure of national television, or the Warriors late game surge to spoil the night. Here are five things we can takeaway from last night’s early season classic.
Kawhi and Durant were dialed in
The match up that everyone was excited for did not disappoint. With Steph Curry and Draymond Green both out, Kevin Durant has stepped up to play some of the best basketball of his career. While it was exciting to see two of the best players in the league guard each other over the course of the night, it didn’t stop them from dropping season highs. KD dropped an impressive fifty-one points, including a ridiculous 3-pointer to send the game into overtime in the dying seconds of the fourth. Leonard quietly scored a season high thirty-seven, but was helped by twenty-six from Pascal Siakam and twenty from Serge Ibaka. Leonard continues to impress for the Raptors, who keeps managing to find new ways to surprise us. If he still isn’t 100% like Nick Nurse says, the other teams in the East should be very afraid going forward.
Shooters gotta shoot
The renaissance of the Raptors offence includes a heavier focus on the three ball- which mimics the offense of the Warriors. To few people’s surprise, a lot of threes were shot last night. Toronto won that battle. The Raptors made 15/38 threes, which was a better percentage to the Warriors, who at one point were shooting 2/11 from beyond the arc. The Raptors also managed to have a field goal percentage above 50%. At one point in the game, Leonard had made the first seven of eight shots he took, which helped the Raptors jump out to a huge early lead, that ultimately led to the win. Hot and cold spots are still an issue though. Kyle Lowry was quiet in the win, only scoring ten points and only making 2/7 threes.
The true star of last nights game was the great defense of the Raptors. From the very start of the game they were dialed in, and ready to counter the high octane Warriors. While they performed well in the first quarter- they bent but did not break. The Warriors only led for a brief minute in the first quarter when it was 4-3. That was it. The Raptors then poured on the points while creating great perimeter defense to force contested shots. The defense was also clutch late in the game. This includes a key turnover forced by Kyle Lowry in overtime to create two vital free throw attempts to solidify the Raptors lead. Most people talk about how good the defense of Boston or Memphis is, but people need to start paying attention to this Raptors squad.
Room for improvement
While there is much to praise about the Raptors- there are still things that need to be worked on. Offensive rebounds are still and issue, as well as transition defense. The Raptors struggled to get defensive rebounds from Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, which led to many second chance opportunities for Golden State. This is what kept them in the game for so long. The Raptors need to improve their defense under the glass if they want to have a chance to make it to the Finals. Thankfully, its only November so there’s lots of time to work out chemistry and different defensive schemes.
While players might downplay this game- it was a big deal for Toronto to win. While Toronto may own the best record in the league, many of those wins came from some of the weaker teams in the East and West. They still haven’t beaten the Bucks, and have split with Boston. The win over Golden State was the team’s first signature win of the season. This game sends a warning to the rest of the Association that the Raptors are here to play, and can go toe-to-toe with anyone at anytime. This was also Toronto’s first win against Golden State since 2014.
The Raptors get a chance to bring their win streak to eight on Saturday against the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors meanwhile herald the return of Steph Curry Saturday in Detroit.