The Golden State Warriors proved once again that nothing ignites them like a loss.
Fresh off a crushing defeat on Christmas Day the Warriors (28-5) looked unstoppable, jumping out to a large early lead on the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed the Toronto Raptors (22-9) before sealing a 111-121 victory Wednesday night.
For the fifth time in as may opportunities, the NBA’s eleventh-best board-grabbing team rebounded from a loss with an emphatic win.
Head coach Steve Kerr said that the first quarter his team put together was the best he’d ever seen. Stephen Curry agreed, adding that things got a bit strange from there:
“The first quarter was amazing — we got stops, we (scored) in transition, made the right plays and didn’t turn the ball over, were aggressive. The rest of the game was kind of weird … but we did enough to win the game. Coach said, ‘don’t take winning for granted in this league,’ but we know we know we can continue to get better.”
Making seven of their first eight shots, and eventually nine of their first 10, Golden State stormed to a 16-4 lead less than four minutes into the game. On Whiteout night, though, Toronto erased the lead in the second, taking advantage of sloppy Warrior ball movement — nine turnovers in the period — and an aggressive Terrence Ross.
In all, the Warriors turned the ball over 20 times. Coupled with the 19 offensive rebounds they allowed, the Raptors were able to get up 103 shots as opposed to the 81 Golden State attempts, nearly negating the scorching 56.8 percent they finished shooting from the field. Kerr said that limiting that differential is key to avoiding turnarounds like the one his team was forced to endure:
“The first part of the second quarter was really kind of a mess, we weren’t ready to play and that seemed to snowball on us a bit. We’ve got to clean that up — they get 22 more field goal attempts than we did in the game.”
While Kevin Durant agreed with the coach, he pointed out the fact that many of those turnovers were the product of over-passing, rather than carelessness, which is something he said is a good problem to have:
“I think we were just over-passing, to be honest. I was the worst — I threw the ball away when I had a wide open three, just dropping the ball. It’s a lot of stuff we can control, it’s not like they were getting in to us and turning us over.”
On a Jonas Valanciunas put-back bucket, with 2:31 left in the second quarter, the Raptors cut what had been for much of the first half a 20-point Warrior lead to five. Just when it seemed like Toronto has seized control Durant found Ian Clark with a cross-court skip pass, and he did not pass up the open look.
After Clark slid home the three, Raptor head coach Dwane Casey called for time. The move did little to stem the swing, though, as Durant nailed a three of his own out of the break to push the lead back to double-digits. Behind the back-to-back baskets, the Dubs closed the half on a 14-2 run recapturing the momentum and taking a 72-55 advantage into the locker room.
The three-ball was a weapon all night for the Dubs, who finished a sizzling 14-for-23 (61 percent) from behind the arc.
Toronto, the association’s third-best three-point shooting team (39.4 percent) used the triple effectively as well, going 13-for-35 (37 percent). And it was the three that pulled them back to within single-digits with 5:37 left in the fourth.
The Raptors were paced by 27 and 29 points from their All-Star back court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan respectively, it was bench scorer Ross who was the constant in every Toronto run. Ross, who finished with 24 points, also tallied a team-best plus-8 point differential.
Golden State was once again led by the three-headed offensive attack of Curry (27 points), Klay Thompson (21) and Durant (22) who also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds while recording a game-high five blocks.
Draymond Green, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds and 10 assists, said that games like this provide both positives on which to build and negatives with which to build upon:
“You definitely take note of the positives and try to build on those, but at the end of the day it’s the NBA and no win is easy, especially against one of the best teams in the league. But, at the same time, I look at the fact that we have 20 turnovers … we got to be better with that, we got to rebound the ball better.”
The Warriors improved to 11-0 in games in which Curry, Durant and Thompson each score 20 or more points. They are also 15-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field, and 17-0 when recording more rebounds than their opponent. … With his 29 points, DeRozan, 27, pushed his career total to 10,290 — all of which coming as a member of the Toronto Raptors — giving him the highest total in franchise history, surpassing Chris Bosh (10,275). … Collecting 33 assists on their 46 made field goals, the Warriors recorded their league-leading 22nd in which they recorded 30 assists or more. They are 21-1 in such games.