It was Drake Night at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, and naturally the coolness factor transcended everything.
Drake himself was sitting in his exquisite courtside seat near centre court, between the players’ benches, decked out mostly in black just like the Toronto Raptors, who were wearing their alternative uniforms for the special occasion.
The internationally acclaimed rapper and the NBA team’s global ambassador was on his feet almost as often as Dwane Casey during the early going, gesticulating right along with the Raptors coach.
Drake’s T-shirt featured a huge head shot on its front of Doris Burke, the ESPN basketball analyst, over top of the proclamation: Woman Crush Everyday. Of course, ESPN was broadcasting the game back to the United States.
“I wanted to let her know how much she’s appreciated up here,” Drake explained earlier regarding the significance behind his choice of attire.
The Raptors, playing the Golden State Warriors in the second of a mind-bending back-to-back against the league’s crème-de-la-crème, were hoping that some of Drake’s panache would once again help fuel a Toronto victory.
But despite Toronto’s 3-0 record in previous Drake diversions at ACC, the supercharged Warriors were obviously in no mood for any singalong, flaunting their obvious superiority most of the way before hanging on for a 127-121 victory.
The Raptors never quit, their only mistake the couple of occasions in which they tried to match the Warriors offensive mite, which is never a good idea.
“I thought we got into an out-score-them mode, tit-for-tat,” Casey said afterward. “Again, sometimes great scoring teams…get you in that mode.”
The Raptors did well to whittle down a 19-point third quarter Warriors’ lead to 95-86 heading into the fourth, where Toronto managed to get the disadvantage down to 122-116 with under one minute left before the outcome was determined by free throws.
Stephen Curry led Golden State with 35 points while Kevin Durant added 30.
DeMar DeRozan would card 34 points to lead Toronto’s attack. It marked the ninth time in 11 games that the league’s leading scorer has scored at least 30 points in a game.
For the Raptors, now 7-4 on the year, it marked the first time this season they have dropped two straight as they struggle to work their way through a brutal portion of their early-season schedule.
The Warriors, 9-2, have won five straight.
It was the second of a back-to-back for the Raptors, who were tripped up the night before in Cleveland by the Cavaliers.
The Warriors and the Cavaliers only represent the top two powerhouses in the league, having contested one another in the last two NBA finals and perhaps headed for a third-straight clash.
The Brooklyn Nets are the only other NBA team who will have to face Cleveland and Golden State on a back-to-back this season.
If Drake was looking for an easy touch for his night of celebration, admittedly the Warriors might not have been the wisest choice to help highlight his gala.
“We obviously have a tough back-to-back with Cleveland last night,” Drake said. “I try to pick the most exciting game. Obviously it doesn’t matter what city you’re in, I think everybody sort of wants to catch a glimpse of Golden State at this juncture of time.
“So I try to pick an exciting game and one personally I think we can win. They’re a great team, but they’re not invincible.”
While the Raptors were in Cleveland Tuesday night laying it all out during a 121-117 setback to the Cavaliers, the Warriors were already in Toronto, resting their high-powered jets in their luxury hotel digs.
And the Warriors rolled in riding a four-game winning streak with an already formidable lineup bolstered significantly by the off-season free-agent addition of Durant, who bolted from Oklahoma City.
Now teamed with the likes of Curry, the league’s reining two-time most valuable player, and the hard-nosed Draymond Green, the Warriors are already being hailed as one of the most talented NBA rosters ever assembled.
And the Warriors are certainly living up to all the hype, heading into the game against Toronto ranked No. 1 in the league in points per game, field goal percentage and assists per game.
“They’re a smart team, they’re basketball IQ is off the charts,” Casey said admiringly before the game. “And Durant adds to that.”
For the first time in three games, struggling forward DeMarre Carroll was inserted into the starting lineup for Toronto. The Raptors are trying to control his playing time in hopes to stave off the injuries that caused him to miss so much time last season.
The Raptors came out hyped for the contest and a three-pointer from Carroll in the first quarter vaulted Toronto in front 32-22. And all was good for the capacity gathering, many of them wearing the free Drake Night T-shirts (minus Burke’s picture) that were hanging on the backs of the seats when they entered.
The Warriors had trimmed the Toronto lead down to 38-34 by the end of a rollicking first quarter, where both sides connected on more than 57 per cent of their shots.
The Warriors took over in the second quarter, where they outscored Toronto 32-15 to take a 66-53 lead by the half.Report Typo/Error
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