SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry was back, and the Warriors (14-49) did their part to remind their fans and the NBA that they are a different team with him.
They played a vastly superior team in the Raptors and forced the defending champions to summon some late-game savvy to send the Warriors to a 121-113 loss at Chase Center.
Curry scored a team-high-tying 23 points and shook off a couple falls to the floor to remain in the lineup over the final four minutes.
Here are three takeaways from the most anticipated Warriors game since opening night last October:
The Curry Watch
There were choppy moments early, with a scoreless first quarter and getting his pocket picked by Toronto’s Norman Powell in the first minute of the second quarter.
But Curry never looked truly rusty. His passing and dribbling were on point, his feel for his surroundings typical. Once he developed a rhythm in the second quarter, he looked like his usual self. Even had a pair of 4-point plays.
This angle is just ridiculous 👀 pic.twitter.com/tSPwfmZGTz— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 6, 2020
Curry’s line: 23 points (6-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-12 from deep), seven assists, seven rebounds and – this is significant – one turnover in 27 minutes.
Curry’s first half: 11 points (3-of-9, 2-of-7), four assists and three rebounds in exactly 14 minutes. His second triple of was rather spectacular, as he drilled a catch-and-shoot, off-balance 32-footer that barely beat the 24-second clock.
Curry’s second half: 12 points (3-of-7, 1-of-5), three assists and four rebounds.
There’s the Steph we know and love 🤩 pic.twitter.com/Fhagf6LzrF— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 6, 2020
Not bad for someone who had not played a minute since last October.
Undoubtedly benefitting from having Curry on the floor, the Warriors found increased spacing and made effective use of it by sharing the ball well enough to record 34 assists.
The most encouraging sign was that, with Curry serving as ringleader, the ball movement was contagious. Eight of the nine available Warriors had at least one assist in the first half, and after the first few minutes of the third quarter all nine had entered that column.
Rookie forward Eric Paschall dished for a season- and career-high eight assists. Reserve center Dragan Bender, on his second 10-day contract, tied his season-high with four.
The assists total would have been higher had the Warriors been more accurate shooters. They missed 54 shots, many of them open, and finished at 40.8 percent from the field.
D-Lee sizzles in Curry’s wake
Curry’s return was bound to benefit all of his teammates, but there was no way of knowing which one would receive the biggest boost.
Damion Lee answered that question early and spent much of the evening emphasizing it before missing a pair of free throws and an open 3-pointer inside the final 30 seconds.
Lee totaled 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-12 from beyond the arc. He added five rebounds and three assists before fouling out.
Starting at shooting guard alongside his brother-in-law seemed to provide Lee with considerable juice. Maybe this was a family thing.