Two recent champions who looked like their former selves the last time out hope to continue the impressive form when the visiting Toronto Raptors collide with the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night in San Francisco.
The clubs will be meeting for just the second time since Toronto ended Golden State’s two-year run of championships in the 2019 Finals.
That meeting took place last March in San Francisco, with the Raptors getting 37 points from Norman Powell in a 121-113 victory.
Both teams are missing key pieces of their run to the finals two seasons ago.
Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard has moved on from the Raptors, as have Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green. Kyle Lowry is questionable for Sunday after having missed Friday’s win at Sacramento for personal reasons.
The Warriors no longer employ Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Cousins. Klay Thompson also won’t face Toronto this time around as he rehabs an Achilles injury.
Things didn’t look good for either team in the first half of their respective games Friday. But then the championship form kicked in.
Mired in a three-game losing streak, the Raptors watched Sacramento put up 43 first-quarter points and went down by as many as 19 points in the first half before exploding behind a barrage of 3-pointers to pull out a 144-123 win.
Fred VanVleet had 34 points while former Warrior Chris Boucher chipped in with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the offensive assault that produced a franchise record for points in a regulation game.
“We did a great job of playing with energy throughout the game,” Powell observed afterward. “We clawed our way back into the game and the guys showed a lot of heart, toughness and togetherness to give us a chance.”
Ninety miles away, the Warriors waited a little longer to make a similar rally that produced a 115-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Golden State trailed 85-63 before using a 34-6 flurry bridging the third and fourth periods to overtake a team that had beaten it in their last four meetings.
“We stayed with it,” observed Warriors star Stephen Curry, who totaled 38 points. “Pretty awesome night considering how the first 28 minutes went.”
The win was the Warriors’ third in their last four games as they continue a seven-game homestand. Curry has scored 62, 30 and 38 points in the wins.
Sunday, he’ll be facing a defense that’s allowed 120 or more points in each of its last four games. Toronto opened a four-game Western swing with a 123-115 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday.
VanVleet has been the hottest of the Toronto shooters of late. He’s scored 25 or more points in four of his last five games, a stretch during which he’s made 21 shots from 3-point range.
He had a team-high 16 threes in the six-game Finals triumph over the Warriors in 2019. Thompson and Curry led the series with 24 and 23, respectively.
–Field Level Media