Two teams coming off satisfying wins and hoping to turn the corner to consistency square off on Friday night in San Francisco when the Golden State Warriors hosts the Toronto Raptors.
It also brings together the teams that dueled in the memorable 2019 NBA Finals.
The Raptors opened a seven-game road trip in impressive fashion on Wednesday, limiting the Sacramento Kings to a season-low output in a 113-95 romp.
Pascal Siakam led the way for Toronto with 26 points and 11 rebounds, but 19 Sacramento turnovers were as critical as anything for the Raptors’ success. Fred VanVleet snatched four of his team’s 12 steals.
The win was Toronto’s second in succession as the NBA champ of four seasons ago fight an uphill battle to make the playoffs this season.
On Friday the Raptors will be trying for their third consecutive victory, which would match their longest winning streak of the season.
“It’s never too late,” VanVleet proclaimed after the win. “We’ve had our struggles this year for sure, but all we can do at this point is focus on tomorrow. We’ve got to stack days and today was a good day.”
The Raptors had four good days when they denied Golden State a third straight NBA championship in 2019. Defence was the key there as well, with Toronto limiting the high-scoring Warriors to no more than 110 points in any of the six NBA Finals games.
Siakam and VanVleet are the headliners among the Raptors still with the club four years later. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry are among those no longer around.
Golden State doesn’t have Kevin Durant now, but then again, it only had him for 12 minutes in that NBA Finals series before he ruptured his Achilles.
The Warriors also lost Klay Thompson to a torn ACL in the series. He has faced the Raptors just once since then.
Thompson was one of the heroes on Wednesday in Golden State’s emotional 122-120 home triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies. His 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds remaining gave the Warriors a two-point lead they eventually lost on a Brandon Clarke dunk but they regained the edge on a game-winning layup by Jordan Poole.
The difference-making hoop off an inbounds play was celebrated by the Warriors on the court as they ended a four-game home losing streak and got back to the .500 mark. But Stephen Curry, the game’s leading scorer with 34 points, had a different vantage point.
Curry was ejected with 1:14 remaining for throwing his mouthpiece in anger after Poole, instead of exhausting some clock after a Warriors offensive rebound with a two-point lead, fired up an ill-advised 30-footer that missed the mark.
“It was in a crucial time of the game. The way our season has gone, every detail matters,” Curry explained about his outburst. “Thankfully, we responded really well.”
The Warriors have won just four of their past 10 and will be trying to win a second consecutive game for the first time since January 2.
The Raptors and Warriors have alternated wins and losses in their six meetings since the 2019 Finals, with Golden State having won 126-110 at Toronto in December despite Curry’s absence with a dislocated left shoulder. Poole had a season-high 43 points in that win.
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