The Toronto Raptors' valiant comeback effort came up short as they suffered a 106-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Toronto falls to 2-7 on the season while Golden State moves to 6-4 on the year.
The Raptors, who trailed by as many as 17 on the night, had an opportunity to win on the final possession as a potential game-winner from Pascal Siakam rimmed out as time expired. Siakam finished with a game-high 25 points (on 9-for-19 shooting) and 11 rebounds while Kyle Lowry scored 16 fourth-quarter points to help engineer Toronto's late rally.
Ultimately, it wasn't enough, as Golden State was led by 17 points from Andrew Wiggins while Stephen Curry had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night, finishing with 11 points and shooting 2-for-16 from the field, including 1-for-10 from deep.
For more on how it all went down, here are some thoughts from a thriller…
1. A change in the Raptors' starting unit
This one looked different from the jump.
As the Raptors still seek answers at the centre position, Nick Nurse elected to go with a different look to start on Sunday night.
Tonight's @Invisalign starting lineup. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/Y3RkAadUrl- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 11, 2021
Toronto went with a three-guard lineup of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, electing not to use a traditional centre with a frontcourt of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.
2. That was a wild finish
WHAT A FINISH in San Francisco:- NBA (@NBA) January 11, 2021
▪️ @Raptors come back from 17 down
▪️ Back-and-forth in the final minutes
▪️ CLUTCH free throws from @Dami0nLee
▪️ @warriors get the game-winning stop! pic.twitter.com/bpmKefpsNy
Toronto entered the fourth quarter down by 15 but didn't quit.
The Raptors clawed at the deficit throughout the final frame, eventually earning their first lead of the night courtesy of a tip-in from Chris Boucher with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. From there, the two teams battled, with a number of players making big plays down the stretch.
In the final minute, Fred VanVleet hit a wild mid-range jumper to put the Raptors up by two and the team forced a turnover on the next possession. After failing to score, the Warriors drew up a play that broke down but it resulted in Damion Lee drawing a foul, which meant two free throws.
Down one, Lee coolly sank both free throws, setting up a final possession for the Raptors with an opportunity to win. And, going downhill, Pascal Siakam shook the defence for a clean turnaround look that just wouldn't stay down, as Toronto fell by one.
A furious finish surely had plenty of fans needing to catch their breath.
3. The Lowry takeover
Through three quarters, it just didn't appear to be Kyle Lowry's game.
He entered the fourth quarter with just one point (on 0-for-5 shooting) to go along with five assists and four rebounds but in the fourth, he had that look in his eye.
Lowry was markedly aggressive in the final frame, applying pressure with his drives that either ended with him scoring, drawing a foul or finding an open teammate. He finished the night with 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
LOWRY TIME! pic.twitter.com/uhqE7RV0IJ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 11, 2021
It ultimately wasn't enough but the Raptors wouldn't have had a shot to win without Lowry's efforts.
4. Defending Curry
Stephen Curry usually saves his best for the Toronto Raptors but Sunday night was a different story.
The two-time MVP entered averaging 30.6 points per game but finished the night with just 11 points, shooting 2-for-16 from the field, including 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. His one triple came down the stretch after Toronto had built a four-point lead.
St3ph!- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 11, 2021
📺 @NBCSAuthentic pic.twitter.com/ZWYYNpIUhp
As timely of a shot as there is.
Fred VanVleet spent plenty of time chasing around Curry but it was a complete team effort to make life difficult for him, with great ball screen coverage as well as great help-side defence on drives. Based on the numbers, the defensive game plan on Curry was executed to a T, it just didn't result in a win.
5. Siakam's aggression
We've seen plenty of signs indicating that Pascal Siakam is back to his peak level and Sunday night was the latest example.
The effort plays, refusing to settle, activity on the glass and, of course, the signature drives are exactly what makes Pascal, Pascal, and he did plenty of those things against the Warriors. Siakam finished with a game-high 25 points (on 9-for-19 shooting) and had a great look to give Toronto the win at the end of the game.
Vintage 🌶️ pic.twitter.com/Wc7cgL5O02- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 11, 2021
Siakam isn't just putting up numbers again, he's looking like his normal confident self while doing so, even after his potential game-winner rimmed out, Siakam - and the rest of the team - didn't hang their heads as it was a shot they would live with any day.
6. A solid showing Wiggins
Almost quietly, Andrew Wiggins has pieced together quite the campaign through 10 games.
The Canadian came out of the gates firing, hitting his first three triples for a quick nine points. Even though he struggled from deep for the remainder of the game, Wiggins finished the game with a team-high 17 points, four assists and four blocks in 34 minutes of action.
Andrew Wiggins (@22wiggins) gets it done on both ends for the @warriors!- NBA (@NBA) January 11, 2021
▪️ 17 PTS
▪️ 4 BLK
▪️ Game-winning defensive stop pic.twitter.com/sDf1FbvBwk
The Warriors staying above .500 and remaining in playoff contention will hinge largely on the contributions of the former No. 1 overall pick.
7. Boucher's block party
While the Raptors are seeking answers at the centre position, one constant the team has been able to rely on is Chris Boucher.
SLIMM BLOCK PARTY pic.twitter.com/D7Ld2r22aR- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 11, 2021
Boucher was spectacular against his former team, bringing great energy on both ends of the floor to finish with 15 points, six rebounds and six blocks in just 24 minutes of action. Boucher was limited due to foul trouble and could have contributed more had he not fouled out late in the fourth but he was a key part in Toronto's comeback.
Dating back to December 2017, the Raptors have not lost both games of a back-to-back.
That streak will again be on the line as this meeting in San Francisco was the first night of a back-to-back. History suggests that Toronto will find a way to overcome the struggles and pull out a win as it's back on the floor in less than 24 hours.
9. What's next?
The Raptors complete their four-game trip as they head to Portland to take on the Trail Blazers Monday night.
Catch you then.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.