For a second time this season, the Toronto Raptors beat the defending champion Golden State Warriors (19-10). With a 23-7 record, the Raptors are the best team in the NBA.
The Raptors played without their star forward Kawhi Leonard, who missed a second game in a row with a sore hip. The Raptors kept the Warriors’ potent offense in check and cruised to a 113-93 victory. The road win in Oakland ended a 13-game losing streak against the Warriors on their home turf.
Toronto 2, Golden State 0
Two of the best teams in the league battled, but the Raptors came out on top once again. They swept the season series with a 20-point blowout. Two weeks earlier, they won their first meeting with a close overtime victory in Toronto. The media billed it as a potential preview of the 2019 NBA Finals and the thrilling game lived up to the hype. The Raptors held off the Warriors in overtime to win 131-128. Kevin Durant dropped 51 points in the loss. Steph Curry missed the first game with a groin injury and Draymond Green nursed a sore toe. Both played in the second game.
The Warriors wanted revenge in the rematch, but didn’t get it.The Raptors won despite missing their leading scorer, Leonard (26.1 points per game). Point guard Kyle Lowry stepped up with 23 points and 12 assists. Veteran power forward Serge Ibaka contributed 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Pascal Siakam, the front runner for Most Improved Player, added 13 points.
Lowry, previously bogged down in a horrid shooting slump, posted back-to-back 20-point games with Leonard injured. During the lowest point of his early-December shooting woes, Lowry missed 24 shots in 28 attempts. The 12-year veteran out of Villanova also posted a goose egg in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s since put the slump behind him and led the Raptors to two key victories.
Rough Night in Oakland
The Warriors were held to only 93 points, which marked a new low when they had their power four in the lineup (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green).
Curry started the game cold and couldn’t find his shot all night. Curry finished with only 10 points on a 3-for-12 shooting clip.
“Tonight, they were obviously the better team,” said Curry. “Everybody seemed to have confidence and was playing off each other really well. And on our end, we just didn’t have it.”
The Warriors shot 23.1 percent from behind the three-point arc and finished with only six treys.
Although it might like seem the Raptors have come out of nowhere to become the best team in the NBA, the Warriors didn’t see it that way.
“I wouldn’t call them a young team,” said Kevin Durant after the loss. “Or say them beating us two times is going to give them extra confidence. They’ve been ballin’ before that, and they’re going to be ballin’ after they beat us. So, they’re not an up-and-coming team. They’re here.”
Durant corrected the myth that the Raptors were a young squad lacking experience.
“They have champions over there with Danny (Green) and Kawhi (Leonard),” said Durant. “They got a great mix of veteran and young players. They got a new coach, but the leaders of that team have been through some wars.”
Best in the East
The Raptors embarked on a four-game road trip out west against some of the best teams in the NBA. With a win against the Warriors in Oakland, the Raptors improved to 12-3 on the road this season.
Rookie head coach Nick Nurse knew the Raptors were about to be truly tested after losing three times in four games for their worst stretch of the season. Nurse knew they must play better defense if they wanted to snap out of their funk. Thus far in California, the Raptors hunkered down and held both opponents to under 100 points.
In Los Angeles, the Raptors destroyed the Clippers, who were previously in first place in the Pacific division. The Clippers lost by 24 points and were outplayed on both ends of the court.
The Raptors visit the Portland Trailblazers and red-hot Damian Lillard on Friday. Over the weekend, the Raptors fly to Denver to take on the Nuggets. Nurse and the Raptors seek to avenge a three-point loss from two weeks earlier.