Even before the opening buzzer sounded on a convincing 113-93 Raptors win at Oracle Wednesday night the Warriors had lost.
It happened around 15 minutes before game time when Kawhi Leonard was ruled out with a hip injury.
Conventional wisdom and most casual observers would think that it was the Raptors (23-7) who would have lost before the tip with their best player in a suit.
But those who have followed these Warriors (19-10) the last few years knew it was doomed for them one the opposing star went down.
The Warriors get up for these nationally televised games, especially against a team that is perceived as their equal. They live for those games when they get to expose their quasi challengers in front of everyone.
But once they know they aren’t getting the other team’s full squad, the emotional letdown almost always manifests itself in a lazy, blowout.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Draymond Green, who got two fouls and a tech early said that Raptors did killed the Warriors in every category:
“They played better than us, they were more aggressive, they shot the ball better, we couldn’t really buy a shot. They just did everything better.”
After hitting his first 3, Stephen Curry clanked his next three, including two wide-open corner 3’s.
Curry said that whether he’s being well contested or not, he feels like he should make all of them:
“I didn’t really have a rhythm for whatever reason. The first half they hit shots and they played aggressive, but most of our open looks didn’t go down. We obviously know how to play through that but tonight it didn’t click.”
He finished just 2-of-8 from downtown. More distressingly, he was the better Splash Brother from deep. Klay Thompson‘s 0-of-5 came on almost exclusively open looks.
As a whole, Golden State shot just 6-of-26 from deep after enjoying a 3-point renaissance the last couple games.
They once again lived in the midrange, with Kevin Durant doing all he could in that area of the court, putting up 30 points and seven rebounds on 13-of-22 shooting.
But he got little help on the offensive end. Curry put up just 10, Thompson had an inefficient 14 and Quinn Cook was the only other Warriors player in double-figures with 13 — coming mostly in garbage time.
The Warriors didn’t fare much better on the defensive end as the Raptors abused their suspect rotations all game.
Steve Kerr said it was about defensive effort early on:
“We didn’t really bring the level of intensity that we needed until the start of the third quarter. That was the first sign of life with our defense. But at that point we were swimming upstream, we were just trying to get back in the game…You can’t wait until halftime against the team with the best record in the league to start defending.”
It felt like a 30-point deficit all night, but the Warriors actually kept it around 12 for much of the contest, going on a couple mini runs that looked like they might turn into something.
Yet every time they did, Toronto answered with an easy bucket manufactured by a beautifully run set. Kyle Lowry led the way with 23 but it was a game controlled by their entire starting five.
That five-man unit scored 81 combined points outscoring the Warriors starters by 21.
Durant said that the Warriors simply got outplayed:
“I don’t think we overlooked anyone tonight, they just played better than us…We have to be a better basketball team next game and going down the line if we are going to get to where we want to get to.”
What started as a marquee matchup between the two likeliest Finals opponents, devolved into a listless rout within minutes.
That’s twice the Raptors have toppled the defending champs in the month. And if the Warriors want another shot at them, at full strength, they’re going to have to wait until June.
The Warriors will take a quick trip up to Sacramento to take on the Kings Friday before returning home for a matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies Monday.
The last time the Raptors won at Oracle was in February of 2004, the Warriors had won the last 13 games previously.