Raptors finally show resilience

In a battle of the two teams' top scorers, a monster 51-point effort by Golden State's Kevin Durant was not enough, with Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard contributing 37 points in Toronto's 131-128 overtime win over the Warriors on Thursday.
In a battle of the two teams' top scorers, a monster 51-point effort by Golden State's Kevin Durant was not enough, with Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard contributing 37 points in Toronto's 131-128 overtime win over the Warriors on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

OT victory over champions Warriors could be Toronto's best claim to shot at NBA title

TORONTO • It may be too early to claim this could be Toronto's year, but Thursday could be the watershed moment the Raptors finally showed they have the steel to go with one of the National Basketball Association's deepest rosters.

Their mentality was certainly tested, an 18-point lead wiped out after back-to-back three-pointers from Kevin Durant with nine seconds left made it 119 apiece to send the game into overtime.

The Raptors had to dig deep before overcoming a monster 51-point effort from Durant to take out two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors 131-128.

It was the hosts' seventh straight victory to improve their league-leading record to 19-4, while the Warriors fell to 15-8, suffering their fifth consecutive road defeat.

The visitors were missing the injured Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, but it took nothing away from a battling performance by the Raptors, who were paced by 37 points from Kawhi Leonard.

And if Nick Nurse's players want a repeat of the match-up - which had been billed as a possible Finals preview - next June, they will need more of the same "building blocks" to finally shed their tag as perennial underachievers and break their championship duck.

That was the view of Danny Green who, along with Leonard, arrived in a trade from San Antonio. He had 13 points, including a three-pointer with 2min 7sec left in the extra period to give the Raptors a lead they would not relinquish.

He told ESPN: "It's just the maturity level. You have to find a way to get out of that funk.

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    Points scored by Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant - his third straight game of 40 or more points, equalling his career high.

"Keep the positive energy and keep making winning plays. Those plays turn the energy of the game around... even when you see bleeding, try to stop the bleeding with something."

Among those plays were the five late free throws Pascal Siakam made in overtime as the ever-present forward scored a career-high 26 points.

Serge Ibaka added 20 points, Jonas Valanciunas 12, and Kyle Lowry had 10 points and 12 assists at the Scotiabank Arena.

The Raptors of old would have folded in the face of "one heck of a performance" by Durant, who had his third straight 40-point game and was three points shy of his career high of 54. But Green would not be drawn on suggestions they are now made of sterner stuff.

He added: "No. We can definitely learn and get better from tonight's game when we watch the film.

"But it's not something where we can base this off any future psychological (edge).

"It's too early."

Despite being the top seeds in the East, the Raptors were swept in last term's semi-finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was the last straw for the club's hierarchy, who took drastic measures in the summer to rectify their propensity to choke.

All-time top scorer DeMar DeRozan was traded to San Antonio for Leonard and Green, while coach Dwane Casey also paid the price after seven years in charge.

In Los Angeles, LeBron James came through in the clutch, scoring 12 of his 38 points in the last five minutes, as the Lakers bounced back from their biggest loss of the season - a 32-point rout by the Denver Nuggets - with a 104-96 win over the Indiana Pacers.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2018, with the headline 'Raptors finally show resilience'. Print Edition | Subscribe