Los Angeles: Norm Powell scored a career-high 37 points as the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors spoiled the return of Stephen Curry with a 121-113 win over Golden State on Thursday that clinched them a playoff spot for the seventh straight season.
After missing four months with a broken hand, Curry was back in the Warriors’ lineup as they faced Toronto for the first time since the NBA finals.
“We knew Steph would be back so it would be a great night and a great atmosphere,” said Raptors star Kyle Lowry. “He is one of the best players in the league so we had to be a little more focused and concentrate on him.”
After a slow start, Curry finished with 23 points for the injury-hit Warriors, who have won just 14 games this season and have the worst record in the league.
“I felt great. It was a cool moment with the excitement in the building. Toronto is a championship team so they got a lot of chemistry,” said Curry, who missed 58 games.
This season they are also without Klay Thompson, who blew out his knee during a 30-point performance in the playoff-ending game six against Toronto.
The Warriors now have won two of their past four games after an eight-game losing skid. They have lost 10 consecutive home games and it remains to be seen if Curry can rescue them from their dismal season.
Pascal Siakam nailed a clutch basket while being fouled with 45 seconds left to give Toronto a four-point lead.
Golden State’s Damion Lee scored 23 points he also missed two free throws and a wide open three pointer which ended any hope of the Warriors coming back in the final minute.
Lowry’s double-double consisted of 26 points and a game-high 10 assists, while Serge Ibaka chipped in with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Siakam finished with 17 points.
Curry shot six-for-16 overall and three-for-12 on three-pointers in the loss.
“We been together 11 years and I never been out this long in the middle of the season,” Curry said.
Elsewhere, reigning playoff MVP Kawhi Leonard scored a team high 25 points as the Los Angeles Clippers won their sixth straight game with a 120-105 rout of the Houston Rockets on Thursday.
Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell finished with double doubles for the Clippers in a battle between the two Western Conference powerhouses.
They have played each other four times this season with both teams winning twice. But the Clippers would have the edge if they tie in the standings because they have a better record against the teams in their conference.
The Rockets trailed by as many as 30 points and led only once at 4-2.
Leonard also had six rebounds and five assists and Zubac finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Harrell tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds for the visiting Clippers at the Toyota Centre arena.
“We won two games in a row and now we are going back home so that is what I am happy about,” said Leonard.
The crowd was announced at 18,055 but only about half that number remained for the fourth
quarter as the smaller Rockets
players couldn’t keep pace with Los Angeles.
Paul George scored 13 points and Marcus Morris chipped in 11 points in the drubbing.
Russell Westbrook scored 29 points and had 15 rebounds while former league MVP James Harden scored just 16 points on dismal four-of-17 shooting for Houston.
Also, Jamal Murray drained a clutch jump shot with six seconds left to lift the Denver Nuggets to a 114-112 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Murray finished with a team-high 18 points as seven Denver players scored in double figures.
Charlotte’s Terry Rozier missed a desperate three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Will Barton finished with 16 points, Monte Morris posted 15 points, Jokic and Gary Harris each had 14 points and Paul Millsap and Grant scored 11 apiece in the win.
Graham scored 24 points and PJ Washington had 20 for the Hornets.
Rozier (19 points), Willy Hernangomez (14 points) and Zeller (10 points) helped give Charlotte a chance. — AFP