For the first time since clinching their first title in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors returned to California to face the Golden State Warriors.
Missing key players in Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol, the defending champions faced some stiff competition in a Warriors squad that was welcoming back two-time former MVP Stephen Curry from a left-hand injury.
In the end, the Raptors prevailed and clinched their seventh consecutive playoff berth, the second-longest active playoff streak in the league.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the Raptors' second game on their current five-game Western Conference road trip:
Shorthanded Raps rally behind Powell and Lowry
Despite missing key rotation players, the Raptors showcased their depth in the win with six players finishing in double figures, led by their starting backcourt duo of Norman Powell and Kyle Lowry.
Powell erupted for a career-high 37 points (13-20 FGs; 4-8 3Ps). He carried the team on his back in the second quarter, scoring 19 of the team's 30 points in the period.
In 38 minutes, Powell also finished with three rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
Kyle Lowry struggled to shoot efficiently from the field but he contributed across the board. The All-Star finished with 26 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and two steals in 33 minutes.
Pascal Siakam (17 points), OG Anunoby (14), Serge Ibaka (13), and Terrence Davis (10) were the other Raptors who finished in double figures.
Steph Curry looks good in return
After missing 58 games from a broken left hand suffered in early November, Steph Curry impressed even with a minute's restriction. His much-awaited return had Chase Center buzzing.
This is how #DubNation welcomes back @StephenCurry30 🙌 pic.twitter.com/olFQXWVNWb- Chase Center (@ChaseCenter) March 6, 2020
He contributed across the board in his 27 minutes of action, with 23 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
His teammates weren't the only ones happy to see Curry back on the floor. A host of players across the league voiced their pleasure at seeing him return to the floor:
Happy to see @StephenCurry30 back out there again! Nothing like being in your sanctuary! The game missed you. 🙏🏾👑- LeBron James (@KingJames) March 6, 2020
Good to see @StephenCurry30 back 💯💯- Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) March 6, 2020
Siakam comes up clutch
It was a tough night at the office for Pascal Siakam, but the Raptors All-Star stood tall when it mattered most.
He managed just 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists on 5-of-17 shooting and 0-of-7 from the three-point line - but his confidence never wavered, coming up with TWO huge plays down the stretch
As the Warriors reeled off a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to two points, capped off by an Andrew Wiggins triple, Siakam barrelled his way to the rim for a tough finish to give the Raptors a four-point cushion with 1:10 to go.
ALL-STAR PLAYER MAKING ALL-STAR PLAYS pic.twitter.com/CobH0ccxib- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 6, 2020
After Curry's free throws cut the deficit to 115-113 with 1:03 remaining, Siakam went straight down the other end, euro-stepping his way to the rim for the circus and-1 finish.
He missed the free throw, but those two big buckets were enough to stifle the Warriors' momentum and on a night where his shot wasn't dropping, those high-stakes buckets are exactly what you want to see from your new go-to-guy.
Raptors clinch playoff berth
With their 44th win of the season, the defending champs booked their spot in the playoffs on the same court they won the 2019 NBA title.
It only took them 62 games to clinch, making it the earliest date and game they've secured a playoff berth in franchise history.
BREAKING- Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 6, 2020
Raptors clinch a playoff berth for the 7th straight season.
It's the earliest date & game in franchise history where they have clinched a playoff spot#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/Z19tYHgR5p
The Raptors now sit at 44-18 on the season in the second seed in the eastern Conference, 1.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics and nine games back of the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
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