Almost beating a team shouldn't be a big deal but the Warriors are special. The defending champions were 20-0 going into Saturday's game in Toronto while boasting a terrific point differential. Going blow to blow with them is a tall task and the Raptors did it for the full 48 minutes. Golden State escaped with the close 112-109 win but had to work for it.
The Raptors are having an up-and-down season, winning the first five games of the season before playing below .500 ball since. They have lost starting center Jonas Valanciunas to a hand injury and been forced to stretch their rotation to make up for it. Yet led by a career year by Kyle Lowry they are still a dangerous team who can outplay anyone on any given night. On Saturday, they almost snapped a historic winning streak before falling short late.
Stephen Curry had another ridiculous game, scoring 44 points on 24 shots but Lowry was extremely close to matching him. The Raptors' point guard scored 41 points in 26 shots and dished seven assists, the same as Curry. He was relentless attacking the rim against a Warriors squad that missed Andrew Bogut, out with back spasms. His teammates followed suit and the Raptors outscored Golden State in the paint 58-32.
All that effort went to waste because the Warriors were the opponent, and they just don't lose. The Raptors' defense couldn't get stops without fouling and Golden State made the most out of the free throws it got late in the game. Without getting a field goal to fall in the last two minutes, they closed the game from the line, with Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all hitting their shots.
The Raptors ultimately couldn't end the Warriors' winning streak but not for a lack of effort. They grounded out enough points and played good enough defense to have one of the best teams in history on the ropes. If they continue to play with such ferocity, they will be back to winning games soon.
The Cavaliers are the East's best team but the spot for second best is wide open. Judging from their play on Saturday, Toronto could make a claim for that title soon.
3 other things we learned
The 76ers keep melting down in the clutch
The 76ers led by four points with 2:41 to go in the fourth quarter. Their second win of the season was within their grasp. They just needed to execute and prevent the Nuggets from getting unanswered buckets. Denver went on a 10-3 run the rest of the way and stole the game in Philadelphia.
Scoreboard in 36 minutes of clutch time (final 5 minutes game within 5) this season: Philadelphia 40 Opponents 111 pic.twitter.com/OpatqNsqtd— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 6, 2015
The 76ers lack a dominant offensive player who can take over late and are too young to execute with discipline. That's why they will likely continue to lose close games. An optimist would say that the fact that they get to late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win is a step forward but after so many losses fans probably don't care about moral victories.
Paul George is back to elite level
George has been playing very well for a while but against the Jazz he turned things up a notch. He scored a new career-high 48 points on just 27 shots. He went 8-for-11 from beyond the arc and 10-for-13 from the free throw line. It was a fantastic performance from one of the league's best talents.
It wasn't enough to get his team the win, however, as Derrick Favors had a career night of his own, finishing with 35 points and 13 rebounds and powering the Jazz to an overtime victory.
If nothing else, George's performance was a good reminder that when he's healthy, he's an elite player. He's averaging just over 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. In a world without Stephen Curry, he would be in the MVP discussion.
The Magic are still learning how to win
The Magic, coming off a six-game winning streak, were playing against a Clippers team missing Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. By no means was it an easy game because Blake Griffin was there but it was a good chance to get a quality win against a shorthanded contender. They kept the game close until they finally getting separation in the fourth quarter. They led by 12 with nine minutes to go but unraveled after that and ended up losing the game 103-101.
The loss hurts but it teaches the young Magic a lesson: Never sleep on good teams and never stop executing. This is the first year Orlando has been good enough for their record to really matter and, as talented as the roster is, they are still very raw. This season is all about learning how to win and sometimes that involves suffering some heartbreaking losses.
Play of the night
Paul George is so explosive that he makes this spinning dunk look easy.
4 fun things
Drake can't help but enjoy Stephen Curry's game, even when he's destroying his Raptors.
The Bucks' mascot almost ruined Star Wars night.
Jeremy Lin tripped on a fastbreak and then missed a wide open layup.
Heat fans taunted LeBron James for taking the night off, so he reminded them of the rings he won there.
Nuggets 108, 76ers 105 (Denver Stiffs recap | Liberty Ballers recap)
Warriors 112, Raptors 109 (Golden State of Mind recap | Raptors HQ recap)
Heat 99, Cavaliers 84 (Hot Hot Hoops recap | Fear the Sword recap)
Hornets 102, Bulls 96 (At the Hive recap | Blog a Bull recap)
Rockets 120, Kings 113 (The Dream Shake recap | Sactown Royalty recap)
Trail Blazers 109, Timberwolves 103 (Blazer's Edge recap | Canis Hoopus recap)
Bucks 106, Knicks 91 (Brew Hoop recap | Posting and Toasting recap)
Spurs 108, Celtics 105 (Pounding the Rock recap | Celtics Blog recap)
Jazz 122, Pacers 119 (SLC Dunk recap | Indy Cornrows recap)
Clippers 103, Magic 101 (Clips Nation recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)