By Lori Ewing
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ Kyle Lowry met the reigning NBA MVP blow for blow Saturday night.
But even a career-high performance couldn’t derail Stephen Curry and the undefeated Golden State Warriors.
Curry scored 44 points, while Lowry poured in 41 in a thriller that was decided in the dying seconds as the Warriors captured win No. 21 with a 112-109 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
“That’s what he does,” DeMar DeRozan said of Lowry. “I’m trying to get him to be more of a scorer. He put his heart out there, and he just came up a little short.”
DeRozan finished with 16 points, while Lucas Nogueira had 14 points, and Luis Scola added 10 for Toronto (12-9).
Klay Thompson chipped in with 26 for Golden State (21-0).
The Raptors had given the defending NBA champion Warriors a run for their money early last month in a narrow loss, and they were a confident bunch Saturday.
They trailed just 83-79 with a quarter left to play, and scraped out a one-point lead with just under five minutes to go on a spectacular sequence that saw a Lowry three-pointer, a DeRozan layup, and a Lowry layup.
Curry calmly drilled a pair of threes _ he’d had confidently turned and headed back upcourt before the ball fell through the net on each _ to put Golden State up by two points with 2:33 left to play.
“You’ve got to give him all the credit, he’s a helluva player man, he makes it look so effortless,” DeRozan said. “Now with all the confidence, what he’s able to do, you’ve got to give him credit. As a fan of the game, it’s definitely exciting to see.
“Sucks you only play them twice a year because you love playing in these types of games.”
A Lowry layup with 10.7 seconds pulled the Raptors to within a point, but two free throws by Curry, then a turnover by Cory Joseph clinched yet another victory for Golden State.
“They are 21-0 for a reason,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “I thought our effort was there, but again, consistency. . . to beat a great team like that there can’t be any ‘oh crap’ moments, and we had a couple of those.”
Curry spent three of his childhood years in Toronto, chucking up shots at the Air Canada Centre while his dad Dell played for the Raptors.
He looked at home on that same floor Saturday, draining nine three-pointers. Lowry had six. The point guards each had seven assists.
“It’s tough when we had an opportunity to (win), it was right there,” Lowry said. “But at the end of the day they still won and we lost. Move on.”
Golden State is chasing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who own the NBA single-season record for wins with 72. They broke the record for the best start to a season back on Nov. 25 with win No. 16.
“This 21-game win streak is surreal ??_ just thinking about it doesn’t make sense,” Curry said. “Like it doesn’t sound right when you say it out loud. But we’re out there on the floor very confident, very comfortable. We expect to win every night. So by the same token, it’s kind of what we’re about.”
There was a big buzz in the building Saturday, and the fans responded to Curry’s big buckets, and the seeming ease with which he hit them, with “oohs” and “ahs.” Press row was jam-packed.
The Warriors are creating a commotion wherever they go, but they don’t mind.
“Yeah it’s crazy but our guys are fine with it,” said coach Luke Walton. “People talk about the pressure getting worse the longer the streak goes, but our guys love the pressure. They play better the bigger the stage is, the more fans that show up.”
The capacity crowd of 20,160 fans included a star-studded front row. Soccer star Didier Drogba, Olympic gold medallist Donovan Bailey, and NBA legends Bob Lanier and Isiah Thomas, among others, sat courtside. They were there as part of “Giants of Africa,” Raptors GM Masai Ujiri’s second annual celebration of Nelson Mandela.
The Raptors trailed by as much as 11 points in another sluggish start, and Golden State led 32-21 to end the first.
Toronto roared back in the second, opening the frame with a 22-9 run, capped by a DeRozan dunk, that gave them their first lead since early in the first. But the Warriors hit back, and took a 59-49 lead into halftime.
Lowry poured in nine of the Raptors’ first 11 points of the third, and a dunk by Nogueira with just under three minutes left in the frame cut the Warriors’ lead to three points.
The Raptors host Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.