Curry scores 23 in return, but Raptors clinch playoff spot

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (L) and Toronto Raptors forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (C) in action during the second half of their NBA game at Chase Center in San Francisco, California, USA, 05 March 2020. EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO SHUTTERSTOCK OUT

SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry seemed every bit himself after a four-month layoff, save for a little long-range rust.

“He looks exactly the same to me,” coach Steve Kerr said.

Curry scored 23 points for Golden State in his anticipated return from a broken left hand, but the Toronto Raptors beat the Warriors 121-113 Thursday night to clinch a playoff spot.

After being sidelined 58 games, Curry led Golden State out of the tunnel to a big ovation – as loud as his neon sneakers, one pink and one yellow – and the crowd stirred every time he pulled up to shoot.

He missed his first two attempts, but had three quick assists, including a no-look, behind-the-back dish to Andrew Wiggins. He finished with seven assists and seven rebounds in 27 minutes.

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“I was trying to be out there and not think about it,” Curry said. “If I needed to make that pass, make it and no hesitation. It was a good feeling, throwing the first one.”

The two-time MVP hit a 17-footer for his first basket early in the second quarter, then got a huge reaction for a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc shortly before halftime. He was 3 of 12 from 3-point range and 6 of 16 overall for the game, the only blemish on an otherwise encouraging night for the three-time champion.

“It was a cool vibe, competing like that,” he said.

Norman Powell scored a career-high 37 points for Toronto, which won in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. The Raptors won that series in six games, finishing with a victory in Golden State’s final game at its old arena in Oakland.

Kyle Lowry added 26 points and 10 assists, Serge Ibaka had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Pascal Siakam had 17 points for the Raptors, who won at Phoenix on Tuesday night to end a three-game losing streak.

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“Knowing that Steph was coming back, we knew it was going to be a great night, a great atmosphere,” Lowry said. “One of the best players in the league was coming back from injury, we were a little more focused and concentrated on him, but coming in here, it’s a great regular-season game.”

Damion Lee scored 23 points with five 3-pointers, and Marquese Chriss had 17 points and 12 rebound for the Warriors, who have lost 10 straight at home.

Curry was the only Golden State player in uniform who also played in last year’s Finals – a fact that hit him during warmups, when none of his teammates harmonized with his strict pregame routine.

They jelled better after tipoff. Curry connected a few times with Wiggins, acquired from Minnesota in February. Toronto swarmed Curry when he had the ball, and Wiggins was the biggest benefactor with 21 points.

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While Curry said he plans to work on his chemistry with Wiggins over the season’s final 19 games, he said their connection Thursday was more coincidental – Curry was mostly just trying to find open teammates. He had just one turnover and came out pleased with his ability to space the floor with the remade roster.

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“I felt better than I expected and felt like I obviously could have played more minutes,” he said. “Have to stick to the plan just this first game, but that was the hardest part to deal with.”

A 3-pointer by Lowry and a powerful dunk from Anunoby stemmed Golden State’s rally in the fourth quarter with Curry on the bench.

Curry checked back in with 3:51 left and hit a falling layup with two minutes remaining that pulled the Warriors within 113-108.

Wiggins added a 3-pointer to make it 113-111, but Siakam made two baskets in 15 seconds to keep Toronto’s lead safe.

“I think that it was a high energy building tonight and they were playing well,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I expected it to be a really close game tonight and there were no illusions in my mind that it wouldn’t be.”

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