By Jerry Feitelberg
San Francisco- The Warriors superstar, Stephen Curry, returned to action after missing 58 games due to a broken hand. His presence on the court electrified the fans.
The Warriors, with the worst record in the NBA, had to play the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors. Many people around the NBA thought the Raptors would not have a good season as their star player, Kawhi Leonard, left the team to play for the LA Clippers.
Under the tutelage of their coach, Nick Nurse, the Raptors own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors entered the game with a record of 43-18. Stars such as Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, and Pascal Siakam are the new nucleus of the Raptors. Neither Marc Gasol or Fred Van Vleet was available to play Thursday night. The W’s Draymond Green and Kevon Looney did not play.
The Raptors entered the game as prohibitive favorites. The Warriors, on the other hand, felt that they could compete with the champs. They had won two of the last three they played, and Curry was back. Head coach Steve Kerr said that Curry would play about 25 to 28 minutes.
The Warriors had a 9-7 lead early in the first quarter. Curry played for about six minutes and did not score. The Raptors led 18-12 about midway through the period. The Warriors stayed with them for the rest of the period. Eric Paschall, Damion Lee, and Mychal Mulder led the Warriors offense. The quarter finished with Toronto leading 32-27.
In the second quarter, the Raptors increased the lead to 10 39-29. Curry scored his first points of the night when he made a bucket and was fouled on the play. The Raptors, behind Norman Powell’s hit hand, increased the lead to 14 49-35. Curry hit a three-point shot that sent the crowd into delirium. The Warriors clawed their way back.
The Warriors behind Curry and Damion Lee cut the lead to five 56-51. The Raptors went on a 7-0 run, but Andrew Wiggins knocked a three to end the second quarter. The Raptors won the period 30-28 and led the W’s 62-55 at the end of the first 24 minutes of play. Steph Curry, in his 14 minutes of playing time, recorded 11 points, three rebounds, four assists, and he connected on two three-point shots Damion Lee had 12, Marquese Chriss nine, Eric Paschall eight, and Andrew Wiggins six. Toronto’s Norman Powell knocked down 17 points in the second quarter and finished the half with 23. Kyle Lowry was second with ten.
In the third quarter, The Warriors ambushed the Raptors. Over the past few seasons, the Warriors owned the third quarter. This season, it has been the reverse. Opponents have killed them this year. Thursday night, the Warriors looked like the Warriors of old. They won the quarter 33-27 to finish trailing 89-88, heading into the final stanza.
Damion Lee and Curry led the charge. Curry was making magic for Golden State once again. He made behind-the-back passes to his teammates for scores. He made another three and drove to the basket. The Warriors had the lead 85-83. Toronto regained the lead as Powell knocked down two -three-pointers to put them back in the lead.
In the fourth quarter, it sounded like the days of old at the Oracle Arena. The fans were chanting “Warriors, Warriors.” The Warriors did the best they could, but Toronto started to pull away. The Warriors tied the game at 95.
Toronto forced three straight turnovers, and they increased the lead to five 100-95. The Raptors were leading 111-102 when Curry re-entered the game. The Warriors rallied to close the deficit to two 113-111. The Raptors’ Pascal Siakam scored to make it 115-111.
Curry countered with a bucket to make it 115-113. The fans were chanting MVP, MVP, MVP. The Warriors would not score again. The fans, with 1:34 to play, were on their feet as they gave the Warriors a rousing, standing ovation. It is rare to have fans shaking the house, knowing the team is about to lose. The Raptors scored the last six points of the game to win 121-113.
Game Notes and Stats- With the loss, the Warriors went 14-48. Curry was on the floor for 27 minutes. He scored 23 points, had seven rebounds, and seven assists. He made three threes in ten tries. Damion Lee had 23 points. five boards, three assists, and he made five threes.
Wiggins tallied 21 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and three threes. Marquese Chriss had a double-double with 17 points and 12 boards. Eric Paschall finished with 16 points, four rebounds, and eight assists. The Warriors shot 42% from the floor. They connected on 14 threes in 50 attempts. They moved the ball well as they recorded 34 assists. The W’s outrebounded the Raptors 52-39.
Norman Powell had a career-high 37 points to lead the Raptors. Kyle Lowry had 26, Siakam, 15, Og Anunoby 14, Serge Ibaka 13, and Terrence Davis 10. It was the seventh win in a row for Toronto.
The Warriors host the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night at the Chase Center. The game will start at 5:30 pm.