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Three notes after Durant has MVP night in overtime loss to Raptors

© Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports


The Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors, a team with the best record in the NBA, tonight. It might be the most exciting and encouraging loss you’ll ever see from the Warriors. Without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Kevin Durant put in an MVP performance and the supporting cast dug deep to come back and turn an early blowout into a close 131-128 loss.

Here are three notes from tonight’s game:

MVP Durant is here

At times this season, Durant has been frustrating to watch. He hasn’t always shot the ball with the clinical excellence that has typified his career. He’s scored plenty, but he’s gone in ruts and missed too many bad shots instead of looking to pass to teammates. But tonight, Durant was his MVP self. He carried the Warriors with a fantastic shooting performance after the Warriors (15-8) at one point trailed the Raptors (19-4) by 18 points in the first quarter.

To end the third quarter, Durant pulled up from about 35 feet out and hit 3-pointer to cut the Warriors’ deficit to 96-88. It was a ballsy, “I’ve got this” shot that exemplified Durant’s confidence.

And by the fourth quarter, that confidence dripped off his shoulders and onto his teammates. Kevon Looney grabbed a seemingly endless stream of rebounds to keep possessions alive and stifle the Raptors.

Meanwhile, Jonas Jerebko was his typical hardworking self, adding 15 points, grabbing key rebounds and a few assists. And Thompson hit smart shots and at one point tossed a clever lob to Looney while Durant waited to get back into the game. When he returned, the Warriors trailed just 108-104. Without his shooting and his energy, the Warriors never would have had a chance at a comeback.

With the Warriors trailing the Raptors by six in the fourth quarter, Durant hit back-to-back ridiculous 3-pointers to tie the game at 119 and send the game to overtime after a great defensive possession on Leonard.

The Warriors couldn’t complete the comeback, but Durant’s 51 points (18-for-31) marked the first time in his career that he scored 40-plus points in three-straight games. It also gives him, Curry and Thompson all a 50-point game this season.

Durant’s last four games have been genuinely absurd:

This is a positive loss

The Raptors have been unbelievably good to start the season and at this point, they look like the clear favorites to meet the Warriors in the Finals. They’re clinical shooters, aggressive, switch-happy defenders and have a fantastic mix of youth and veteran players. Plus, they have a bona fide star in Kawhi Leonard.

While Bob Fitzgerald said Leonard “is human,” after he missed a shot tonight, he seems to be much more like a cyborg. In a personality-heavy league, he’s all about basketball. He’s reserved, has a terrifying laugh that seems forced, and only picked up his first career technical foul this week, on a clear foul that wasn’t called. And he just signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with New Balance, because of course he did.

Leonard, in addition to being a near LeBron James equivalent offensively, is one of the best wing defenders in the league. Despite all that, the Warriors played fantastic offense. Now, the Warriors trailed by about 10 points all game long, but without both Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, that’s somewhat of a feat.

Tonight, Leonard was unfathomably good. He scored a season-high 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting along with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. In addition to his performance, Pascal Siakam put up a career-high 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while Serge Ibaka chipped in 20 points.

Curry on a PR tour before Saturday return

We all know Stephen Curry is one of the most likable people in America. He’s got an affable charm and seemingly constant joy in addition to his frequent involvement in the community. He’s returning to the Warriors on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, but until then, we’ll have to enjoy off-court Curry.

Today, Curry displayed a response to a 9-year-old fan named Riley Morrison who wanted girls sizes of his shoes. Not only did Curry respond with a handwritten letter, but he made sure Under Armour would provide girls’ sizes for his shoes and sent two pairs of shoes to Morrison.

Then, Curry met with Zachary Walker, a kid from Toronto who played in a halftime basketball game during one of the Raptors’ home games. Like Curry, he put a series of ridiculous moves on his defender before hitting a tough shot and the display went viral.

Curry saw the moves and dm’ed Walker on Instagram. Before today’s game, Curry met with Walker (and his entire family, who cut short their trip to Mexico by a day to meet Curry).

There’s no doubt that we’d all prefer to see Curry on the court than off it, but his care for kids and genuine interactions with fans are almost as impressive as his shooting.

 

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