That elusive complete game effort could not have come at a better time for the Toronto Raptors (33-26), who held the potent Golden State Warriors at bay on Sunday afternoon en route to an exciting 104-98 victory at the ACC.
The Raptors held the up tempo, explosive Warriors under 100 points by zoning in on the much-ballyhooed backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry posted a game-high 34 points, but needed 27 shots in order to do so and turned the ball over six times along the way (four of which came in the fourth quarter). Meanwhile, Thompson seemed to be off his game all night, picking up five quick fouls and managing just 12 points on 4-15 shooting.
In comparison, DeMar DeRozan served up a productive 42 minutes that included 32 points on 10-16 shooting (that's right, two fewer points on 11 fewer shots than Curry), 11-12 shooting from the free throw line and six assists. DeRozan scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, during which Toronto used a 14-2 run to take charge and grab a lead that they would not relinquish in a refreshingly brisk finish (the whole game lasted just 2:10, a nice break from the previous Raptor contest).
A Steady Hand
Forgive the clichee, but the most remarkable thing about Sunday's win was how unremarkable it truly was. There was no point where either team seemed completely in command or completely at a loss. Toronto came out playing tight defence and moving the ball well, and continued to do so through to the final whistle. There was no need for a dramatic second half surge, nor was there a colossal collapse after taking a big lead. Quite simply, Toronto did a lot of things well and kept doing them well throughout the night.
If DeRozan was the best Raptor against the Warriors, the race for the second-best Raptor may have been awfully close to a six- or seven-way tie. Consider the many standouts... Landry Fields stepped in to Terrence Ross' starting spot by scoring a quick eight points on 4-5 shooting and adding six rebounds while being seemingly all over the court. Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez, the two main contributors from the Rudy Gay trade, poured in 12 points apiece. Jonas Valanciunas used a variety of impressive post moves to pick up 10 points on 5-6 shooting and five rebounds. Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson provided the stat-filling, with Lowry posting 13 points, eight assists and three rebounds and Johnson registering nine points, nine rebounds and five assists.
[Yeah, I've got nothing]
Sunday may have been the rare occasion in which more athletic talent could be found in the stands than on the court. Among the sports illuminaries on hand were Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, Summit Series legend Paul Henderson, former World's Fastest Man Donovan Bailey and Prince of Toronto Mike "Pinball' Clemons.
Since when have Dick Bavetta and Joey Crawford served on the same ref crew? Why hasn't a bigger deal been made about this??
Golden State's dynamic scoring is what keeps them among the league's most entertaining teams, but any hopes of a long postseason run will hinge on their defence. The presence of Andre Iguodala has helped transform the Warriors into a defensive force, boosting them to third in the league in Defensive Rating and opposing field goal percentage. However, as the Raptors highlighted on Sunday afternoon, the Dubs are vulnerable against an attacking offence that can get points inside - such as Portland, who they are currently set up to face in round one.
The Raps get a bit of R&R time, with four days off before hosting Gay and the Sacramento Kings on Friday night (7:00pm, TSN2).
Prediction: Raps 100, Kings 98 (35-14 this season)