OAKLAND, Calif. — Minus their top player and with their coach still mourning his mother’s death two days earlier, the Toronto Raptors put an emphatic stamp on a season sweep of Golden State.
They did it with the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors nearly at full strength, too, a very different scenario from when the teams played in Toronto less than two weeks ago.
Kyle Lowry had 23 points and 12 assists to lead a balanced Toronto offence while leading scorer Kawhi Leonard sat out, and the Raptors dominated from the start in routing the Warriors 113-93 on Wednesday night.
“When you play them you have to do a lot of things well,” said Toronto assistant Adrian Griffin, who spoke with reporters after the game while head coach Nick Nurse left to be with his family in Iowa for his mother’s funeral.
“Give our guys credit, they came in ready to play and they fought with great intensity. We knew it was going to be a challenge for us and I thought that Kyle did a phenomenal job leading the team. He is an All-Star, no doubt.”
Serge Ibaka added 20 points, Danny Green scored 15, Pascal Siakam had 13 and Fred VanVleet 10 to help the Raptors improve to an NBA-best 23-7, matching the 2014-15 squad for the best start in franchise history.
They did it despite not having Leonard for a second consecutive night. Toronto’s star forward has a sore right hip and was considered questionable before the game. He was ruled out less than 30 minutes before tip-off.
“Long term we want (Leonard) healthy,” Lowry said. “We want him to take the time and get right. But knowing that him being out, a lot of things go through other people. I’ve been here a long time and we’ve always said, ‘Next man up.’ That’s how we’ve always treated everything.”
The Raptors also lost 7-foot centre Jonas Valanciunas to a dislocated left thumb in the first half.
So with all that, might this have been Toronto’s most satisfying win of the season? Not so fast, Lowry said.
“A good win for us,” he explained. “Another game on the journey of 82.”
Kevin Durant had 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Golden State. The Warriors had won four straight heading into a much-anticipated showdown between two teams many expect to reach the NBA Finals.
“We didn’t start the game off with a sense of urgency,” Durant said. “I don’t think we overlooked anybody tonight. They just played better than us.”
Despite playing the second half of a back-to-back following a 123-99 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, Toronto appeared to be the fresher team. The Raptors repeatedly beat the sluggish Warriors to loose balls and outrebounded them 48-40.
It was Toronto’s first win in Oakland since Feb. 8, 2004.
“It’s a different vibe, a different feeling when you’re on the climb like Toronto is and Milwaukee is like we were a few years ago,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s harder to get up for each game. There are certain nights where you can just feel it; you don’t have that energy. It’s not an excuse. It’s just reality.”
The Raptors beat the Warriors in overtime earlier this season behind a season-high 37 points from Leonard. Golden State didn’t have Stephen Curry or Draymond Green for that game, but both were back for the rematch while Leonard sat out.
It hardly mattered.
Toronto led by 18 in the first half and was up 93-67 early in the fourth quarter following a three-point play by Greg Monroe.
VanVleet said the Raptors’ defence was as impressive as their offence.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league for a reason and their offence is so lethal that you try to take the main guys out and make them do things that they’re not comfortable doing,” VanVleet said. “I thought we did a good job following the game plan.”
Kerr benched his starters midway through the fourth as the Oracle Arena crowd filed for the exits.
Curry scored 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Green was 1 for 5 and finished with two points as Golden State went 6 for 26 on 3-pointers.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Raptors swept the Warriors for the first time since 2001-02. Toronto is only the second Eastern Conference team since 2014-15 to sweep Golden State. . The Warriors fell to 0-5 this season when held under 100 points. . Curry moved past Hall of Famer Rick Barry into sixth place on the Warriors’ career list for games played with 643.
“He’s like that fire extinguisher that you need to break in case of emergency. He steps right in there, he doesn’t miss a beat. He just calms everyone down.” — Griffin talking about Monroe, who had five points and five rebounds in 7 1/2 minutes.
Raptors: Nurse will rejoin the team Friday in Portland. . Toronto went 4-0 in California this season for the first time in franchise history. … Lowry’s double-double was his 100th with Toronto. … Green picked up a technical foul less than four minutes into the first quarter. … VanVleet (back) started after being questionable before the game.
Warriors: Shaun Livingston left with a pelvic bruise in the fourth quarter. . Andre Iguodala sat out a second straight game with a hip injury sustained during warmups Monday. Kerr said Iguodala is day to day but added the team is taking a cautious approach. … Kerr said there was no new update on DeMarcus Cousins but left open the possibility that the All-Star centre could practice again with the G-League team in Santa Cruz.
Raptors: Play at Portland on Friday.
Warriors: Play at Sacramento on Friday.
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