Warriors 127 – Raptors 125: Comeback falls short

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 13: Stephen Curry
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 13: Stephen Curry /

The visiting Golden State Warriors looked to be in cruise control after opening up a huge lead. The Raptors roared back in the second half, but couldn’t get over the final hurdle.

The Toronto Raptors were crushed in the game’s first half by the visiting Golden State Warriors. The script flipped entirely after the intermission, as the Raptors tightened up their defense. DeMar DeRozan sliced through the Warriors and to the hoop consistently. Toronto whittled a 27-point deficit into a single, but couldn’t close the gap. A brilliant comeback wasn’t quite enough.

The game should have been over when the Raptors allowed 81 points in 24 minutes, the most ever surrendered by a Toronto team at home. The Warriors were doing much more than firing away successfully from distance, which they are so well known for. They were racing away from their hoop after snaring one of the many Raptors misses from deep (3 for 15) and converting. The Dubs had 14 fast-break points. On those rare occasions when they were compelled to play half-court sets, they were ducking behind Toronto defenders to convert quick passes at the hoop.

Easy buckets? Check. The Dubs shot 71.1% for the half.

TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 13: DeMar DeRozan /

What a difference intermission makes

After no doubt rattling the walls with his anger at halftime, coach Dwane Casey received a greatly improved and aggressive performance. The Raps were much handsier, and combined that with less room for the Warriors’ absurdly talented shooters.

At the other end, the Raps were getting inside, and getting hacked as a reward. With 15 points on free-throws in Q3 alone, the momentum was clearly shifting. The margin was down to 19 from an embarrassing 27 at the half, but there was little hope for more than a respectable final score.

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Wrong again. The only starter on the floor was DeRozan, who continued to attack the basket. Meantime, Fred VanVleet grabbed 5 defensive rebounds and had 3 assists. CJ Miles drained a pair of long balls under pressure (although he probably punched his pillow before sleeping – he missed two of three free throws late). Somehow the oddball quartet was clicking. The Raptors won the final quarter 36-19.

The Raps twice got to within one point, but a frantic out-of-bounds play was called in GSW’s favour after review. With three seconds left, all the Raptors could do was foil the pass, or foul the receiver. That turned out to be Curry, who didn’t miss. The margin was five, so Fred’s 3-ball at the buzzer was meaningless.

Something positive from the disappointment

I’m not much of a believer in character-building losses, but this game might change my mind. The Raps didn’t fold after their humiliating performance early, and gave the visitors a serious scare. DeRozan buried some remarkable shots despite tight coverage to finish with 42 points.

Toronto may have lost both games to the defending champions this season, but they were close and exciting. Maybe, just maybe, our turn is coming.