Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr heaped praise on Kevin Durant and the rest of the team despite a close loss to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
In what was billed as a potential preview of the NBA Finals next summer, it was the home side who took the early initiative as it raced to a 38-25 lead over the Warriors after the first quarter, before having as much as an 18-point lead in the game. However, the reigning champions would fight back as they outscored Toronto in the following three quarters to take the game to overtime with the scores tied at 119-119 at the end of regulation time.
The game could have gone either way at that point, but the Raptors eventually came out with a 131-128 win to not only improve to 19-4 for the season, but also to snap an eight-game losing run against Golden State with Kawhi Leonard scoring a season-high 37 points for the hosts.
While the Warriors have been inconsistent without the injured Stephen Curry and are now 15-8 for the season, this loss was not like the previous ones, especially given the fight they showed which Kerr was particularly proud of.
“Just playing our tails off,” Kerr told reporters after the game. “We didn’t come ready to play in the first six to eight minutes. We weren’t defending, just turning the ball over and [then] we just started playing hard, competing and flying around. Really proud of the guys, what a game, incredible basketball game for the fans to watch. We came up just short, may have gotten a little fatigued at the end but really proud of our effort.”
Kevin Durant has received criticism for not leading the team in Curry’s absence, but scored a massive 51 points in his team’s defeat, with 18-for-31 in field goals and an impressive 57.1 percent shooting from the three-point line.
It follows his recent 44-point display against the Sacramento Kings and his 49-point display against the Orlando Magic, marking the first time he has scored at least 40 points in three consecutive games, and Kerr believed he was in his “groove” right now.
“I have no idea. You’re going to have to ask him,” Kerr replied when asked about Durant’s recent scoring. “He’s just in a groove. He’s that talented though where if he starts to feel it, he can get any shot he wants pretty much anytime. So when he’s feeling it, there’s not a whole lot the defense can do.”
As for Durant, he told reporters he was just trying to be “the best version” of himself.
“Just trying to do whatever it takes each possession,” Durant explained. “Try to be the best version of me on both ends of each possession. Easier said than done but I just try to focus on that.”
“I just felt like I got to do what’s required at this point [without Curry and Draymond Green]. There’s going to be some games where we got that great team game going. We can beat teams with the flow of our offense. There are going to be some games where I got to get buckets. Tonight, we were down early, down big, and I just tried to be aggressive.”
Meanwhile, Curry is expected to finally return when the Warriors face the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. The Pistons face the Chicago Bulls on Friday first and are currently on a three-game winning streak.