The Toronto Raptors and their fans knew the Golden State Warriors would punch back — the heavyweight back-to-back defending champions have been here before and are the best for a reason.
And when the Warriors finally did punch back, the Raptors didn’t have an answer.
The Warriors used the longest run by any team in the NBA Finals game to propel them to victory — 20 unanswered points and the champions marched to the win.
Golden State evened the series 1-1 Sunday night after a 109-104 victory over Toronto.
“The second half especially, just wasn’t nearly as physical of a game as we have seen in the playoffs,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “It was just hard to move a little bit tonight and it caught up with us a little bit in the second half.”
One bad quarter sealed the Raptors’ fate on a night when everything seemed to be going so smoothly for a team brimming with confidence. Toronto led 59-54 at halftime and seemed in control of the game.
Whatever was said in the Warriors’ locker room at the half seemed to spark a team that has won so many big games over the previous five seasons — this is Golden State’s fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.
In fact, it took the Raptors nearly six minutes into the third quarter to finally score. When the buzzer sounded to end the third, the Warriors found themselves up 88-80 heading to the final frame.
Golden State outscored Toronto 34-21 in the quarter.
“It was a great win, and now we got to go home and protect our home floor,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
“I feel like in that third quarter, we didn’t score the ball in like the first five minutes, four-and-a-half minutes, obviously led to them getting out in transition early and a lot of layups and open looks, and that was pretty much the game right there,” said Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard.
“Went on like a 15, 18-0 run, I believe, and you can’t do that with a championship team on the other side.”
Playing with a confident swagger
Prior to Game 2 Sunday night in Toronto, Kerr talked about playing with a swagger, the type of confidence that has allowed the Warriors to bask in the dynasty they currently find themselves.
“To me, confidence is not just confidence in your shot. It’s confidence in your ability to execute all the details that go into winning a game,” he said.
Kerr’s team showed poise and patience and didn’t panic when they trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half. They trimmed the lead to five by halftime and then surged in the third quarter — it’s what championship teams do, and it’s what the Warriors have done to win three of the last four titles.
Toronto would get as close as two points with time winding down in the game before Andre Iguodala broke the hearts of the Raptors’ fans with a dagger three-point shot to end the game.
“Confidence is obviously big in anything you do, any profession you’re in. It starts with our leader in Steph Curry. You just see it in his game,” Klay Thompson said.
Thompson left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury. After the game, the Warriors coach said Thompson pulled his hamstring but that it was minor.
Curry scored 23 points for the Warriors.
“We’re playing in the NBA Finals and we’re chasing a championship, and everything that comes with it is what wakes us up in the morning,” Curry said.
“We have had a lot of great experiences and had a lot of battles and a lot of challenges, and we have done well with them. So hopefully this is more of the same.”
Home sweet home ends for Raptors
Not since April 29, with a 94-89 loss to Philadelphia in the second round, had the Raptors lost at home. The loss also snapped a five-game home playoff winning streak which tied the longest in franchise history.
The Raptors are now 9-3 at Scotiabank Arena in the playoffs. The series now shifts to Oakland’s Oracle Arena on Wednesday and Friday night.
Toronto had been riding a wave of momentum in their home confines, with boisterous fans cheering them on throughout the playoffs. Thousands of fans have been packed outside in Jurassic Park and in city streets.
But it’s not only in Toronto that fans have been rallying around the Raptors. In locations across Canada fans have gathered in other Jurassic Parks to cheer on the team. From Vancouver, to Saskatoon, to Halifax, Canada’s only NBA basketball team has captivated fans from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Now the Raptors are about to enter enemy territory in Oakland where Warriors’ fans get ready for their turn to create a hostile territory for Games 3 and 4.