Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
Going into Thursday night’s most anticipated game between the 18-4 Toronto Raptors and 15-7 Golden State Warriors, it was set to be a high scoring and entertaining battle between two powerhouse teams in their respective conferences.
The defending NBA Champions coming to Toronto is a rare sighting, only happening once a year. Ticket prices sky rocketed for last night’s contest as the cheapest price for tickets were going for as low as $170. But nonetheless, a sold-out crowd in Toronto was in attendance in a jammed-packed Scotiabank Arena to watch their beloved Raptors go up against the Champs.
The Warriors entered the game without the likes of All-Star point guard Stephen Curry and All-Star forward Draymond Green both due to injuries. But there was still a ton of buzz surrounding this game. After all, they are the champs no matter how you put it.
Head coach of the Raptors, Nick Nurse, went with his go-to starting lineup; Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam and Ibaka. This is the lineup Nurse has gone with for the most part of the season. As the game tipped-off, it didn’t take long for the fans to get into it as well as the Raptors themselves. The team was playing at a high tempo, pushing the ball up the court, and playing solid defensively. An early 10-0 run by Toronto forced head coach of the Warriors, Steve Kerr, to call a timeout only four minutes into the contest with Toronto shooting 8-of-10 and 4-of-5 from three-point range.
The Raptors continued to apply all the pressure in the first quarter. Leading the way for Toronto after 12 minutes was Kawhi Leonard will 13 points and only missing one shot. The rest of the Raptors were also getting good looks themselves to shoot a combined 72 percent.
The second quarter was a bit more even; a quarter of runs. The Raptors were up by as many as 18 to begin the 2nd quarter. But Golden State battled back and cut that 18-point deficit to just 9 at the half. The Warriors struggled behind the arc, shooting a total 2-of-10 and a combined 47.9 percent from the field, while the Raptors had no problem behind the arc shooting 7-of-17 and a team combined 64 percent. This proved to be a real difference maker as the Raptors led the Warriors 67-58 behind Kawhi Leonard’s 22 points. Pascal Siakam had 15 points to go along with Leonard’s 22, shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from three as he is slowly evolving his skills each and every game and could be making a realistic case for Most Improved Player of the Year. Siakam finished the game with 26 points playing 42 minutes. This kid needs the recognition he deserves.
Coming out of the half with a 9 point lead, the Raptors knew their lead wasn’t safe. The 3rd quarter consisted of the Kevin Durant show. To their credit, though, the Raptors dug deep and still stayed in the game showing a ton of composure, which is a great sign. Golden State won the 3rd quarter by only 1 point; 30-29 to trail the Raptors by 8 heading to the 4th. Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 26 of the Warriors 30 points in the quarter. Thompson had 8 while Durant had 18, including a ridiculous half-court three pointer late in the quarter that shocked all 19,000 inside Scotiabank Arena - including Drake who was sitting courtside in his usual seat.
The Warriors carried that momentum into the 4th where Durant started the quarter on the bench. The bench was getting it done for Golden State, getting key stops and open looks as they cut the Raptors lead to just 4 with 6:50 to get in the final frame. The intensity raised as well as the nerves, and the Scotiabank Arena began to roar as it was starting to feel like Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
As Kevin Durant checked back in with just under seven minutes to go, the Raptors would go on a run which included some breaks with the Warriors missing open shots and the Raptors capitalizing on theirs. Leonard hit a contested shot in Isolation over Thompson, and Danny Green hit a tough heavily contested three-pointer to extend Toronto’s lead to 10 with 4:41 to go as Scotiabank Arena erupted. Without a doubt, the loudest it’s ever been this season - hands down.
But the Warriors didn’t give up just yet. They’re the champs, and Durant was on a mission with 44 points already. With under four minutes to go, that 10-point lead was gone, and it came down to the wire. With the shot clock turned off and a defensive rebound by Durant with the Raptors up three, Toronto just needed a stop to put the game away. It came down to Durant and Leonard in isolation. Durant was cut off by Leonard driving to the rim which forced Durant to go to the left corner to shoot a game-tying three in unbelievable fashion over Leonard. Just like that, the game was tied at 119 heading into overtime .
A nervous Scotiabank Arena looked on, but the Raptors didn’t look nervous at all. Staying calm and composed, they battled to the very end. Leonard and Lowry came up with two clutch steals late, as free throws from Pascal Siakam put the game away for Toronto. They ultimately defeated the defending NBA Champs, 131-128, to improve to an NBA best 19-4.
Although the Warriors were not 100 percent in their lineup, neither was Toronto. Fred VanVleet, CJ Miles, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas all struggled mightily, only combining for 17 points. It may only just be a “regular season game” as Kyle Lowry stressed to the media before and after the game, but it was certainly entertaining no matter what type of game it was and who was playing. NBA fans would love to see this in the NBA Finals in June later in 2019, as this Raptors team has their eyes on the championship in hand.
The Raptors, Warriors, and NBA fans won’t have to wait until June to see this match-up again, as these two teams will face off in just a few weeks on December 12th.
Round two is coming up shortly, so stay tuned.
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