Game Notes: Warriors at Raptors
Deja vu for the Raptors.
by Tariq Sbiet / @Tsbiet
Entering this game, the Toronto Raptors were looking to crack their West Coast funk in search of a win and a team identity; something they have lacked for more than a handful of years. The chance to snap a four-game skid came in the form of a boisterous Golden State Warrior squad. The only good news was home court advantage…or was it.
Toronto stormed out of the gates on a rampage, opening up an 8-0 lead and forcing Coach Keith Smart into a timeout only 99 seconds into the game.
But the Raptors lead wouldn’t last very long as it was erased immediately with a Warrior response; tying the game at 8-8. This was the last time Toronto would be within striking distance.
The Raptors opened up the second quarter the same way they ended the first: careless and sloppy.
Any life that was remaining in the Air Canada Centre at this point was vacuumed in as the dynamic backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry did as they pleased, slicing and dicing through a lackadaisical dino defense.
“Those two perimeter players they have are probably two of the best 1-one-1 players in professional basketball and if you make a mistake they are going to make you pay for it,” said Toronto’s Jarrett Jack.
The Raptors paid dearly while Golden State extended its lead to 14 points by halftime.
It appeared as if Toronto was simply going through the motions on both ends of the floor, failing to express a sense of urgency.
“I don’t want to make any excuses, but I felt we had low energy today,” a defeated Amir Johnson expressed. “Play the whole 48; we have to play with high energy. We can’t take no plays off or slack.”
Linas Kleiza also agreed, “We make the game hard for ourselves sometimes. I think it’s going to get better but our energy level has to be there all the time no matter what happens.”
Golden State took advantage by getting the better end of loose balls and finishing for easy dunks. The Warriors out-rebounded Toronto, 42-32.
Halftime: 55-41, GS
A reoccurring theme began to set in during the second half as Stephen Curry scorched the Raps for 24 of his 34 in the final two quarters.
Each time the Raptors made a mini-run to cut the lead to single digits, Curry would answer to silence the crowd and keep the dinos at bay.
Jarret Jack carried the load in the third scoring half of his points (24) while the Curry-Ellis combination continued to give the Raptors fits.
“We had moments but we couldn’t take advantage. We couldn’t stop the pick and roll, that was the big thing,” said Kleiza. 84-72, GS
It seems each game Toronto plays ends up in similar fashion with them playing “catch-up” in the final frame.
Weems sets up Johnson for an alley-oop that wakes up the Air Canada Centre and trims the lead to 4, 86-90; the closest Toronto has been since the first quarter.
But Stephen Curry, who has been known to torch the Raptors in Canada, came up big down the stretch by delivering several back breakers.
“I felt good there. I was trying to finish the game out. I’ve taken maybe five or six game clincher-type shots and that’s the second one I made, so it felt good,” Curry explained, referring to his clutch performance.
With Curry’s Toronto roots (due to his father’s career with the Raptors) it was almost as if Golden State had home court advantage.
“It means a lot man, I love this place, this arena…I spent three good years here with my pops (Del Curry) so it’s always fun to come back and see familiar faces, the guys working here that use to let me come out and shoot on the floor before games…good vibes.”
Despite a late game Raptor push, Stephen and his Warriors sealed the win.
Final Score: 109-102, GS
GS: 52.7% FG
TOR: 45.8% FG
The Toronto Raptors have a young and developing nucleus but must learn how to win and close out games in order to have a chance to fight for the eighth and final playoff spot. They have proven that they can compete with the best (Lakers), but a closer will need to emerge out of this locker room for the Raps to witness some success.
Golden State is a young, talented and athletic team that plays a fast-paced brand of basketball. The Warriors will need to defend on a consistent basis for them to be able to beat stronger teams. They must also do a better job of taking care of the ball as they committed 20 turnovers on this night. Ellis with 6 and Curry with 5.
Linas Kleiza on recent fourth quarter woes and finishing strong:
“We’re still searching, but I think we have a very good scorer in Andrea, we have players that can score.”
“We have to start trusting each other; I think all five on the floor could close out a game.”
“We can’t dig those holes…we got to stay positive because we’re right there, it’s not like we’re far away. We had a chance to beat L.A., we were right there in the game. In Sacramento, we did it too. We have to learn how to play better in the fourth quarter and finish games, that’s going to be the big key moving forward.”
“Sometimes I think we let our offense affect our defense and we can’t have that.”
Monta Ellis hit the deck hard late in the fourth quarter and was motionless for approximately a minute. According to Golden State physician, Ellis has taken X-Rays and results should be available this morning. (According to CBSSports, Ellis’ injury is not serious and is being classified as a back strain. –Ed.)
Tariq Sbiet is the National Editor for NPH (NorthPoleHoops.com), providing coast-coast coverage on all levels of Canadian basketball including HS, CCAA , CIS, NCAA, National Team, Toronto Raptors and more. Stay tuned for the official launch coming this winter!