OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors are still early in defense of their NBA title, and the players are still looking to play some defense on the court.
In a wild 117-112 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors struggled to box out against a relentless opponent playing without its top two centers, then needed some late brilliance from Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant to escape.
It was hardly the kind of polished effort Golden State has come to expect.
“Our defense has been horrible,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green, who had a season-high 15 points to go with 11 rebounds and six assists. “Nobody’s communicating, which is the main problem. At first, we were fouling a lot. The first four games the fouls were horrific, and then tonight we fouled a bit early and then we cut back on that and turned the ball over.”
Curry, who scored a game-high 30 points, and Durant (29 points) saved the day with clutch shots in the final moments.
After the Raptors (2-2) rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to take a stunning five-point lead, Curry scored in traffic with 1:28 left, and then Durant tied it with a 3-pointer 26 seconds later as the crowd roared.
Durant then fed Curry for another 3-pointer with 32 seconds to play, and Curry rounded out the victory with two free throws.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 24 points, and fellow slick guard Kyle Lowry added 14 points and nine assists.
The sloppy Warriors (3-2) kicked off a three-game homestand by inching over .500 for the first time in the young season.
The Raptors, who dropped their second in a row, were without starting center Jonas Valanciunas and backup Lucas Nogueira, both with ankle sprains, forcing coach Dwane Casey to get creative.
Toronto got a big effort off the bench from Jakob Poeltl, who had 14 points and a staggering 11 offensive rebounds among his 14 boards. The Raptors started Serge Ibaka at center and paired him down low with Pascal Siakam, who scored 20 points.
“Jakob Poeltl was amazing on the boards tonight,” Durant said. “Eleven offensive rebounds, man.”
Casey said of Poeltl, “He did a great job. OG (Anunoby) and Pascal (Siakam), all those three bigs did an excellent job rebounding, running the floor and defending.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr continues to enjoy his team’s offensive brilliance, but the basics remain a sore spot.
“It took us awhile to figure out that we needed to box out,” Kerr said. “It was almost as if we finally worked through our main problem which was silly fouls and reaches. After the first three minutes, we finally started defending without fouling.”
Durant was more direct with his critique: “Well, any 4-year-old up in the stands probably could have seen that we should have been boxing out. So, everybody knew that was the case.”
Klay Thompson lit it up from the outside in the first half, rescuing the Warriors from a slow start with 18 first-half points on 7-for-11 shooting, 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He finished with 22 points. Curry scored 13 in the third quarter after a relatively quiet, 10-point first half.
The Warriors entered the game committing 25 fouls a game, a nagging trend that has Kerr more than a little concerned. They improved in that area with only 16 fouls against Toronto.
“Our entire film session this morning was about fouls,” Kerr said before the game. “We have a number of issues that we’re concerned about, but that’s No. 1.
“That’s by far at the top of the list because the domino effect from fouling is dramatic. You’re giving up three points, the game is stopping. You’re getting in foul trouble, so you’re getting to the bonus earlier, so when you do have to commit a foul maybe to stop a fastbreak, it’s two free throws and the pace of the game changes.”
NOTES: Raptors G DeMar DeRozan, averaging 23.3 points, declared he was ready to go against the Warriors in the Wednesday morning shootaround. He did not practice Tuesday because of a left thigh bruise. ... Raptors Cs Jonas Valanciunas and Lucas Nogueira are averaging a combined 21 points and 17 rebounds. ... Warriors G Klay Thompson is donating $1,000 for every point scored during the team’s three-game homestand to assist wildfire relief efforts in Northern California. ... Warriors coach Steve Kerr spoke about “LBGTQ Night” at Oracle Arena, saying he was proud to be a part of an organization and within an area that “embraces diversity.”