TORONTO — The Golden State Warriors came to Toronto to get one road victory and steal home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.
They left Scotiabank Arena with what they wanted and sent a message: it won’t be easy to dethrone the two-time defending champs, and it will be tougher on the road at Oracle Arena for the next two games of the series in Oakland.
The Warriors defeated the Raptors 109-104 in Game 2 on Sunday, and the excitement of Toronto’s Game 1 victory was muted as Golden State evened the series at 1-1.
The Warriors have won a road game in 23 consecutive straight playoff series, extending their NBA record.
Game 3 is Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), and just as the Raptors realize how difficult this is, the Warriors know they have a fierce opponent who took a major punch from Golden State and trailed just 106-104 after Raptors guard Fred VanVleet’s three-pointer with 26.9 seconds to go. Warriors forward Andre Iguodala sealed the win on a three-pointer with seven seconds left.
Guard Klay Thompson scored 25 points and guard Steph Curry had 23 for Golden State, and Warriors forward Draymond Green had 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, just shy of joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only one to record a triple-double in four consecutive playoff games.
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The Warriors unleashed their offensive firepower and defensive stranglehold on the Raptors during an impressive stretch of basketball in the second and third quarters.
"It was all about our defense, and we held them to 37% and forced 15 turnovers and guarded the three-point line well," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "So, it was championship defense and that's what it's going to take."
Toronto built a 47-35 lead and looked in control. While Thompson found his shot early with 11 first-quarter points, Curry — his Splash Brother — joined the offensive fun in the second quarter. Curry had 14 points in the second quarter.
And from the 5:16 of the second quarter to the 6:35 of the third the Warriors went on a 37-12 run and took a 72-59 lead.
"You can't do that with a championship team on the other side," Toronto's Kawhi Leonard said.
Curry and Thompson combined for 26 of those 37 points as Toronto went scoreless for the first 5:40 of the third quarter.
"We were down 12 and the place was going nuts, we couldn't score, and Steph and Klay both got loose and the game loosened up a little bit and we scored," Kerr said. "We weren't exactly making stops, but we cut the lead to five and could kind of breathe at halftime. I think our guys felt renewed life at that point and came out and just had a great run to take control of the game, and we were able to finish it out from there."
It was an 18-0 Warriors run to start the third, and if you go back to the end of the second quarter it was a 20-0 Golden State run, which is the longest run in a Finals game since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77.
"Third quarter, we didn’t play well enough," said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry who fouled out. "We missed too many shots. They got out in transition and got a little bit of confidence going. Third quarter, we lost the game there."
In Game 2, it was much more of a team effort from the Warriors who received big minutes and timely buckets from DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook and Andrew Bogut. Cousins, who started in place of Jordan Bell, had 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and the Warriors outscored Toronto by 12 points when he was on the court.
Cook had nine points on three three-pointers, and Bogut had six points.
The Warriors' victory also quiets the calls for All-Star Kevin Durant’s return from a strained calf. He’s getting closer to playing, but Kerr wants him to have a full practice before using him against Toronto. The Warriors want to make sure he’s 100%, and it’s possible he practices in Oakland and targets a return in Game 3 or Game 4.
However, the Warriors have other injuries to worry about. Thompson sustained a pulled hamstring and missed the final 7:59 of the game. Iguodala is less than 100% with a leg injury, and Kevon Looney (chest contusion) didn't play in the second half.
"You need your bench, no matter what, but in particular when you've got a lot of injuries," Kerr said. "So we'll just continue to go to those guys and trust them, and they have proven that they can really help us."
The Raptors stayed close enough to keep it interesting and got to within two points with 26 seconds to play.
Leonard led Toronto with 34 points and 13. But Pascal Siakam could not replicate his 32-point performance from Game 1. He finished with 12 points, and Marc Gasol followed up his 20-point performance with just six points.
Though it wasn’t easy for the Warriors, they are in the position they wanted. They didn’t panic after Game 1, regrouped and put together the necessary effort.
"So, it was a great win, we got to go home and protect our home floor," Kerr said, "and we'll see about all the injuries."