10 things: Norman Powell's career night spoils Stephen Curry's return

William Lou
·NBA reporter
·5 min read

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 121-113 win over the Golden State Warriors.

One — Routine: Credit to the Warriors for fighting until the end, but this was always going to be a win for the Raptors. It took until the fourth quarter for the Raptors to finally start clamping down on defense, but once they hit that gear, there was no doubt. Stephen Curry’s return gave the 30th-ranked Warriors some hope and energy, but he alone wasn’t enough to reverse the odds, especially since he was tied to a strict minutes limit.

Two — Groove: Since returning from a hand injury, Norman Powell has scored 22, 24, 26, and now a career-high 37 points. Everything is working for Powell, and his confidence reflects that. He’s exploding to the rim at will, the three-point shot is coming back, and he’s also getting to the line with regularity. Powell is carrying the offense for the Raptors, especially in the second quarter where he can usually feast on opposing benches. Powell scored 19 points in the second, including 15 of 17 points for the Raptors in one stretch, and remained excellent throughout. If he were healthy, Powell would be drawing legitimate buzz as a Most Improved Player candidate, as he’s doubled his scoring output from last year.

Three — Trust: As impressive as Powell was on offense, he was also entrusted with the toughest task of the night in guarding Stephen Curry. Ordinarily, that role would belong to Finals MVP vote recipient Fred VanVleet, but he remained out so Powell took on the task and did quite well with it. Powell swarmed Curry on the perimeter, forced him to drive and be a passer in the paint, and limited Curry to mostly circus shots.

Four — Missed: Serge Ibaka had an average game with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but it felt so refreshing just to have him back in the lineup. Ibaka gave the Raptors structure on both ends and a credible presence in the paint that had been lacking in previous games. Ibaka opened the game with a pair of driving layups, and didn’t miss a beat as he provided rim protection and reliable rebounding on the interior. Hopefully, if Marc Gasol can return sometime soon, there wouldn’t be a need to extend Ibaka beyond 30 minutes so that he can lighten the load on his right knee.

Five — Fire: Out of all the returning champions, it was Kyle Lowry that drew the most jeers in the Warriors’ new stadium. Of course, there is an irritating element to Lowry’s game as he plays the officials, but it’s also a sign of respect that Lowry left such an impression in the Bay Area. Lowry was back to his old tricks as he set the tone with his intensity and willed the team to victory. Lowry’s statline of 26 points and 10 assists just so happens to be the exact same numbers that he posted in Game 6 of the Finals, where Lowry opened the game with 11-straight points en route to delivering the first NBA championship to Toronto.

Six — Clutch: Pascal Siakam picked his spots in this game. He missed a few makable shots early on, and loved his streaky jumper a little too much on a night where it didn’t love him back. Nevertheless, Siakam stepped up when it truly mattered with two driving layups — one to his right, another to his left — with the game on the line to put the Warriors away for good. The middle pick-and-roll action, usually with Lowry, is usually a good way to introduce a mismatch against a smaller defender so that Siakam can get his shot off without much hinderance.

Seven — Steady: OG Anunoby was great in his role yet again, delivering an efficient 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in his role as the fifth option. Anunoby banged in three triples, and was instrumental to the Raptors’ defensive effort in the fourth quarter. Not only did he strip Eric Paschall in the open floor which led to free throws, but Anunoby’s help defense under the rim was crucial as Curry routinely created 4-on-3 advantages coming off the high screen.

Eight — Rotation notes: Terence Davis got a second chance after being benched for most of their win against Phoenix, but outside of a pair of highlight dunks, Davis was out of place and a tad lost ... Rondae Hollis-Jefferson didn’t factor in at all until the second half, and the Warriors immediately shifted into a zone defense when he checked in ... Chris Boucher went from starting the second half against the Suns to riding the bench, although this mostly has to do with the Warriors going without a center in their second unit.

Nine — Missed: Curry’s return is cause for celebration. One of the great tragedies of the 2019-20 season is all the injuries to marquee players, and Curry’s extended absence tops the list. His incredible shotmaking ability, and just the sheer panic he creates with his movement on offense, turned a bordeline G-League roster into a competitive opponent for the Raptors.

Ten — Appreciation: Returning to the Bay should be a celebratory feeling for Raptors fans, but it was just odd to see the Warriors in their current state. All but four players — Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney — have left the Warriors since last year’s failed title push. It serves as a reminder of just how quick things can change in the NBA, and it makes you appreciate how lucky the Raptors are to be running it back in their title defense with 10 returning champions. Sure, not having Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green is strange, but imagine the dissonance of being a Warriors fan.

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