TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors had seen this movie before.
When Kevin Durant hit a completely absurd turnaround fall-away 3-pointer in the corner to tie the game at 119 in the final seconds of regulation, he completely wiped away what had been an 18-point Raptors lead. In the moment, it seemed like the cap on another night of succumbing to pressure for a franchise that has become synonymous with falling apart when the lights are brightest.
Kevin Durant knocks down a 3-pointer in Kyle Lowry's face, then fades away from the corner to tie the game at 119-119 with 8 seconds left.
So yes, this was only November, and yes, the Raptors should not have put themselves in the position they wound up in, the result -- a 131-128 victory at Scotiabank Arena against a Golden State Warriors team that was admittedly without Stephen Curryand Draymond Green -- was a step in the direction this team needs to take if it wants to face the Warriors again in June.
"I think that when a team gets kind of dragged into overtime like that ... a lot of times, that team will feel sorry for themselves, and not come out and play," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. "We didn't [do that]. I was proud of them for that, to take the emotional punch there in the gut, and take a few deep breaths there at the end of the game and go back out there and play the overtime the way they did."
The win pushed the Raptors to an NBA-best 19-4 this season and improved their current winning streak to a season-best seven games. But it also exposed all of the flaws that have so many questioning whether Toronto -- despite its record -- truly is the favorite to get out of the East.
Kyle Lowry, one of the main culprits in those collapses of the past, didn't allow himself to shoot a wide-open 3-pointer with three minutes to go, and was a dismal 4-for-14 on the night. Toronto, in general, felt like a team that was struggling to breathe as it attempted to move to heights it hadn't reached before.
But this time, the Raptors had a pair of players, in Leonard and Green, who have been in every possible situation on a basketball court before. They've played in the crucible that is the NBA Finals -- and came out the other side with rings on their fingers.
In many ways, their former team, the San Antonio Spurs, is everything these Raptors haven't been. For two decades, San Antonio has been basketball's version of the New England Patriots -- a team that, no matter who is playing or what is happening, can be expected to find a way to win.
The Raptors have been a team longing for precisely that. And, Thursday night, they began to see what the benefits of injecting some of that Spurs culture into this franchise's veins can provide.
Leonard was, of course, sensational, putting up 37 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists while going 14-for-24 from the floor. It was his best, most complete performance in a Raptor uniform, as he and Durant put on what arguably was the show of the season thus far.
Duel at Jurassic Park
Kevin Durant was 6-of-9 from the field in 13 plays when Kawhi Leonard was his primary defender. Kawhi Leonard was 2-of-7 from the field in 9 plays with Kevin Durant as his primary defender. Here is a look at each player's offense with the other defending in the half court, per ESPN Stats and Information.
|KEVIN DURANT||KAWHI LEONARD|
|>> Leonard: 1.41 points per play when defended by Warriors other than Durant in half court|
But it was Green who hit the biggest shot of the game -- a 3-pointer with 2:07 remaining in overtime that put Toronto ahead for good. In the past, it would've been a struggle to find someone trustworthy enough in a Raptor uniform to shoot that kind of shot and expect it to go in.