Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Toronto Raptors got their biggest win of the season Wednesday night thumping the defending champions the Golden State Warriors. The Raptors swept the Warriors for the first time since the Vince Carter era back in 2002. It was the Raptors first win in Oakland since 2004.
The Raptors dominated Golden State, who actually had their lineup intact this time around. Earlier this season Toronto beat the Warriors in an exciting game that had a good duel between Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. The Raptors won in Overtime. The Warriors though didn’t have Steph Curry nor Draymond Green in their first encounter. So many people might have looked the win with the Warriors missing some key players, but the Raptors came into Oakland proving a lot of the doubters wrong. What’s more amazing is Toronto didn’t have Kawhi Leonard in the lineup for the second straight game with a sore hip, but again, it didn’t matter.
Kyle Lowry struggled for the past few games and had put up a donut in their loss this past to Milwaukee. Though Tuesday night in LA Lowry was back to his normal self scoring 21 points while piling up 7 assists as the Raptors beat the fourth place Clippers. Lowry stepped it up a notch against Golden State. Posting a double-double with 23 points and 12 assists, while shooting 9 of 18 on the floor. Toronto only trailed once in the game and that was in the first couple minutes of the game. Once they took the lead they didn't look back, posting a double-digit lead heading into halftime.
It should be noted Raptors coach Nick Nurse wasn’t present because of the recent passing of his mother.
Defensively the Raptors shut down the Warriors. Who didn’t reach 100 points and shot terribly from behind the arc, shooting just 23 percent on threes and couldn’t get into a rhythm. Despite 30 points from Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined for only 24 points in over 30 minutes of action. Draymond Green looked nonexistent only scoring a bucket in 25 minutes he was on the court.
The Raptors win against Golden State was huge and it’s another reason why Toronto looks like a serious championship contender. They have been playing some great basketball this season and have gelled together as a team nicely. The Western Conference used to be Toronto's kryptonite in past years, not being able to win games in California was one of the teams struggles for years. However, Toronto has won against all 4 California teams and is a perfect 4-0 in this season. The tide seems to have turned as the Eastern Conference is now looking like the stronger conference.
Toronto is 9-2 against the Western Conference this season, including sweeping their nemesis LeBron James, who took his talents to Hollywood. Even getting a win in Utah earlier this season was massive considering Toronto has been terrible in Salt Lake, with an all-time of 9-14 record. Toronto at Utah has been usually a no-win zone for the Dinos and besting the Western Conference has been a good sign in what has been a season moving in the right direction. The only knock against the Raptors win was the game was in December and not in June. Sure it's true, but Toronto still beat a team full of all-stars without their star player, and Kyle Lowry looked like the leader he knows he can be.
So many players have stepped up for Toronto this season and with their strong depth, Toronto doesn’t look like they’re going to slow down.
Kevin Durant said after the game that the Raptors “aren’t an up and coming team. They’re here.”. It was a statement that felt true after last nights game. Toronto seemed to finally be taken seriously. A team that wasn’t going to be overlooked for the 1000th time. It was only last year where Toronto finished first in the East but still, basketball journalists had Boston and Cleveland getting past Toronto. Other teams like Philadelphia and Milwaukee were also getting more respect than Toronto in the playoffs, understandable given the Lowry-DeRozan era weren't exactly known for making statements in the playoffs.
Wednesday night basketball fans in America had to give the Raptors some props. Toronto finally got the love that had never been there before to our neighbours south of the border. Stephen A Smith even said on First Take the Raptors had “no excuse not to make it to the NBA Finals.” Stephen A Smith never gave Toronto that vote of confidence before. He never would say Toronto and NBA Finals in the same sentence.
Through 30 games this season Toronto is first in the East and winning games handily. Whether on defense and offense Toronto can do play both. Ranking 4th in offense and 7th in defense, the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have played big parts on both sides of the court.
Those additions have brought a championship mentality to the team that never was there in the first place. It’s helped Serge Ibaka be more aggressive in the paint and downright nasty. An element that went missing once he left Oklahoma City. The emergence of Pascal Siakam and teams needing to put more focus on him when on the court. Siakam has been one of the most improved players this season and should be a nominee if he continues to play good basketball for the rest of the season. With Jonas Valanciunas out for a month with a thumb injury. Siakam will be playing a bigger role and cause more headaches for opposing teams.
Other key players like OG Anunoby and Fred Van Vleet are part of the young core that has meshed well with the veteran players. This year’s Raptors team has the potential of doing something special.
No longer can Toronto be ignored by basketball purist’s and have now put themselves in the discussion of championship contenders. Toronto’s season sweep against Golden State is much bigger than just a few games. It sowed the Raptors could hang with the big dogs. It might even be a finals preview and a glimpse of what we saw on Wednesday night.