OAKLAND, Calif. – The Toronto Raptors were without Kawhi Leonard, the franchise’s best player. They were playing their second game in as many nights on the road.
And yet, the short-handed Raptors walked into Oracle Arena on Wednesday night and blew out the relatively healthy Golden State Warriors 113-93 to sweep the season-series 2-0.
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This was a potential NBA Finals preview between two teams viewed as the best in their respective conferences. It was also the second time in the last two weeks that Toronto (23-7) has taken down Golden State (19-10).
Warriors star Stephen Curry, who tied a season-low mark with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, refused to put much stock into the regular-season affairs and said it will have no bearing if the teams meet in June.
“We’ll remember what it’s like playing against them, but it’s 0-0 from here,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “The sweep doesn’t mean nothing in terms of when the lights are the brightest on the biggest stage in the playoffs. Everything’s different. We’ll remember how tonight was. It’s a tough vibe, but they don’t get any extra points if we were to face them in the Finals.”
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points, and he also pulled down seven boards and dished out five assists. Klay Thompson was the team’s second-highest scorer with 14 points, but he was 7-of-17 from the field and 0-of-5 from distance.
All five Raptors starters scored in double figures, anchored by Kyle Lowry’s 23 points and 12 assists. And 13 of the Warriors’ 19 turnovers came from Durant (five), Curry (four) and Draymond Green (four).
Fans dispersed for the exits in droves during a timeout with 5:21 remaining and Toronto leading 99-76. Such an evacuation is uncommon at Oracle in this Warriors era.
“We didn’t start the game off with a sense of urgency,” Durant said. “That is the story today.”
Curry was sidelined with a groin injury on the first go-round with the Raptors. The Warriors are a shell of themselves without the two-time MVP, going 5-6 without him. So much is made about how Curry cures all of the Warriors’ ills when he’s in uniform, but on occasion, Curry needs help, too.
“Tonight didn’t work out, but we’re better at full strength no matter who’s out,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “ … But narratives are interesting depending on how you look at it. Obviously, we’re better when I’m out there. When other guys are in and out of the lineup, things change. It’s a part of the culture around our team sometimes. People want to pick and choose what to say or write about us when we’re not playing well to figure out what’s going wrong.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr had a theory of what went wrong on this evening.
“We’re now in a place where we’re defending a title and defending a mantle that we’ve had for several years and it’s a different vibe, it’s a different feeling than when you’re on the climb like Toronto is, like Milwaukee is, like we were few we years ago,” he said. “It’s hard to get up for each game, so there’s certain nights you can just feel it. … It’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.”
Durant, who was not in the most pleasant mood following the contest, was asked if he agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“Nah,” he simply responded. Later, he disagreed further, saying, “They’re not an up-and-coming team. They’re here.”
The 7-foot small forward also said he didn’t subscribe to the notion that Golden State overlooked the Raptors.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Durant said. “If we say that, then why are we playing the game for? We can’t overlook any opponents because there are opportunities to get better. I don’t think we overlooked anyone today. We respect every team that comes in here, no matter what their record is. They came in here and played better than us. We have to be a better basketball team the next game.”
Curry isn’t sweating it, either. Now that the Warriors’ main core is healthy, he has the utmost confidence in what they’ll be able to accomplish.
“The noise around us, I hear it when they say our record is this when I’m out versus when [Durant] or someone else is out. At the end of the day, whoever’s playing has to do what they need to do to help us win,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “But we’re better when everybody’s out there more often than not and that’s going to be the case.”
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