Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 106-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
One — Heartbreaking: There were no expectations for the Raptors to steal this game, especially after they lost the first three quarters and trailed by as much as 17 points. However, a valiant comeback push saw the Raptors nudge ahead with a one-point lead with eight seconds left, but they still couldn’t finish the deal. The Warriors got a generous, if not exaggerated call on an untimely reach-in foul, and the Raptors’ response from Pascal Siakam rimmed out at the final buzzer. Toronto now falls to 2-7 on the season, and as much as it has been unfortunate on several occasions, its record is what it is. Frustration is mounting and the schedule only gets tougher from here.
Rims out. Game over. Refs are trash. pic.twitter.com/jz55l31A99
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) January 11, 2021
Two — Unfortunate: Siakam took a lot of heat for missing the final shot, which he spun into a midrange jumper over Andrew Wiggins that hit iron twice before rimming out. Siakam had 4.3 seconds left and caught the ball in the backcourt, so it was hardly an easy situation to create. He tried to drive, Wiggins cut him off going left and again when Siakam crossed over to his right, plus Draymond Green was helping way off OG Anunoby in the corner to block Siakam’s path to the rim. Siakam made the split-second decision to spin away from Wiggins which created just enough separation for the attempt. It didn’t go in, and so it became another excuse to bash Siakam for those still clinging onto last year’s playoffs. That’s the cruel margin in sports between winning and losing.
Three — Exaggerated: What makes this loss even tougher was the foul that sent Damion Lee to the foul line. The Raptors swarmed Stephen Curry as they did all night, and Curry gave up the ball to Lee. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet were both in the play, and there was the slightest of contact as Lowry and VanVleet converged. Lee smartly threw himself into the air, his leg kicking above his shoulders, and the call was given. It’s one of those bang-bang decisions that could have easily been a no-call, especially considering how tight the whistle was for most of the night. Credit to Lee, though, for forcing the whistle and then knocking down both free throws. This is already his second game-winning play of the young season.
Damion Lee wins the game for the Warriors. His second game winning finish for Golden State. pic.twitter.com/snOglrOSOu
— TheWarriorsTalk (@TheWarriorsTalk) January 11, 2021
Four — Inspired: It’s hard to explain what happened with Lowry in this game. He was invisible and out of sync for the first three quarters, scoring just one point while providing little else. Lowry is usually so active, so involved, that it’s impossible not to notice him and yet he floated in the background for most of the night. Lowry then grabbed everyone’s attention in the fourth, scoring 16 points off an assortment of pull-up threes and bully ball drives to the rim which erased the 15-point deficit the Raptors had coming into the quarter. Lowry’s last three put the Raptors up by four with three minutes left, but he missed a crucial open three that would have sunk the Warriors for good with nine seconds left.
Five — Tireless: VanVleet continues to give Stephen Curry on the defensive end dating back to the 2019 Finals. Curry entered this game averaging over 30 points, including a 62-point explosion to start the week, but VanVleet had the three-time champion absolutely smothered. Curry shot 2-of-16 on the night, with his first make coming in the third quarter on a midrange shot where he literally ran in a full circle around the court weaving through countless screens just to get a sliver of space against VanVleet. His second basket and his only three was off a quick reverse pass from Draymond Green, in which VanVleet was just a half-second late to contest. VanVleet might be the best guard in the league at navigating through screens, and he did everything in his power to secure the win for Toronto.
Six — Clutch: VanVleet had two sensational plays in the final minute. First, he drained a leaning baseline jumper while taking a hard bump from Green, which put the Raptors ahead by one. On the next play down, Curry thought he shook VanVleet on the high screen, but VanVleet dove back into the play to chase Curry into a turnover. VanVleet even found Lowry for the open three that could have sealed the deal, but it rimmed out. VanVleet is taking yet another step in his development, and re-signing him to a four-year deal was the Raptors’ best move of the offseason by a mile.
Seven — Hustle: Siakam played his heart out over the course of the night. He didn’t dominate in the post like he did against the Suns and the Kings, but the Raptors also didn’t put him in that position very often. Siakam still did his damage at the top of the floor, hitting open jumpers, his fair share of pull-up attempts, and by following up misses around the hoop. The only complaint you could really have is that Siakam missed four of his nine foul shots, but he did swish two in crunch time.
Eight — Spark: Chris Boucher was electric once again off the bench, scoring 15 points and collecting six blocks. Boucher is becoming a knockdown three-point shooter off the pick-and-pop, and shows good chemistry with all of the Raptors’ starters. Boucher unfortunately fouled out in the fourth quarter, and he does give away fouls by making mistakes defensively, but he has overwhelmingly been a positive contributor this season who should be considered as an option to start.
Nine — Empty: The issue with starting Boucher, however, is that it would leave the bench completely barren. The other four bench players outside of Boucher combined for a grand total of eight points, and they completely capitulated against the Warriors’ counterparts. Keep in mind that the Warriors don’t exactly have All-Stars in their second unit, but it was guys like Lee, Eric Paschall, and Kent Bazemore who tore the Raptors’ reserves to pieces. Nick Nurse is still searching for lineup combinations, and expect him to keep shuffling after this miserable performance.
Ten — Decisions: Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster sat courtside for this game. That’s not at all an uncommon sight as the front office usually travels, but it is a visual reminder that difficult decisions will need to be made if the Raptors continue dropping games. Webster and Ujiri’s decision to replace Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka with Alex Len and Aron Baynes — who were both benched tonight — created a gaping hole on this roster at center, and they need to make a decision. Either acquire a viable center to give this team a chance with a balanced roster, or bite the bullet and assess the two veterans on expiring deals.
More coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada