By Cole Parkinson
It may only be December but the Toronto Raptors have finally put up a win against the class of the NBA — the Golden State Warriors.
It was about as entertaining a game as you’re going to find and the Raps walked away with a 131-128 overtime victory on home court on Nov. 29.
The win, of course, comes with an asterisk as Steph Curry and Draymond Green did not play in the game but Golden State is incredibly loaded so a win is a win.
Win or lose, the Raps were never going to gain any real support outside of Toronto.
If they lose it would be ‘how can you lose when they are missing Steph and Draymond?’ and if they win it was ‘of course you should win, the Warriors were missing two of their big four.’
And that isn’t even mentioning Boogie Cousins who signed with the Warriors in the offseason, though he still hasn’t played a game yet as he is still recovering from a torn achilles injury sustained at the beginning of 2018.
No matter, Golden State still had Kevin Durant, an arguable best player in the league, and Klay Thompson in the lineup last Wednesday night in Toronto.
I’m not one to highlight a game in November as the biggest game of the season but it was nice to see a win against Golden State, no matter who was playing.
If the win did signify anything, I think it shows that Kawhi Leonard is a top five player in the league.
Matching up against KD for most of the night, Kawhi put up 37 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal.
In the first quarter, Kawhi was unstoppable as he went six of seven from the field.
He would finish 14-24 in field goal attempts, 3-6 from three-point range and went perfect at the line.
Now I don’t think there is much debate around Durant being one of the best players in the league, a tad behind LeBron is where most put him, and he himself put on a show.
By the end, the scoreboard showed KD with 51 points, 11 rebounds and six assists which was good enough to lead GS in points and rebounds.
So while the Warriors didn’t have two of their big players, beating Durant is a big feat when he has that kind of night.
While I’ve thought this since the beginning of the season, the game has no doubt opened some people’s eyes to who is the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Boston got a lot of votes south of the border to begin the season but after starting the season on a slow note, they haven’t been able to truly showcase why they deserve to be called that team.
Their team makeup is certainly greater than most teams in the east so you have to think they turn it around at some point.
Other teams who got a lot of love were the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, both of which have been great to start the season.
Big reasons Philly and Milwaukee have been so good is in part due to their star players in Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, respectively.
It’s basically a proven point by now that if you have a true superstar on your team, they can almost single-handedly will their team to victories in both the regular season and playoffs.
The Raps though differ from a lot of teams because while they do finally have a top five player, they also have the deepest roster in the east.
Kyle Lowry once again looks like a man on a mission, Danny Green has been better than advertised, Pascal Siakam is showing the league what he is truly capable of and Serge Ibaka finally looks like the player they traded for.
And that’s just the usual starting lineup, teams also have to deal with the bench squad which once again is a force to be reckoned with.
Jonas Valanciunas (who starts when the other team line-up with another big man), Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright and Norman Powell have all been significant contributors off the bench.
So while some may look at the Raps win against Golden State as insignificant, it’s worth noting you can only play the team in front of you.
It wasn’t the Raps fault Steph and Draymond didn’t play and it helped they had a deeper bench than Golden State did.
This truly looks like a Toronto team on a mission to prove last year’s bow out in the semi-finals isn’t going to happen again, but they do have a long way to go yet.
With the Raps, it is almost like the regular season is the appetizer and most fans are waiting for the main course.
And while Klay Thompson said before last week’s game that it may be a potential preview of what’s to come in June, the Raps will have another opportunity to beat Golden State on Dec. 12 when they head down to California.
This time, though, they will most likely be facing a full Golden State team so you can expect a much tougher game.
But if you’re a Raptors fan, this is exactly what you want, a top-five team in the league and an opportunity to show the rest of the league that they are a team with a legitimate chance of reaching the NBA Finals.