Basketball / NBA

Warriors star Stephen Curry scores 23 points in return, but Raptors clinch playoff spot

AP, AFP-JIJI

Stephen Curry scored 23 points for Golden State in his anticipated return after missing more than four months with a broken left hand, but the Toronto Raptors beat the Warriors 121-113 Thursday night to clinch a playoff spot.

After being sidelined 58 games, Curry led Golden State out of the tunnel to a big ovation — as loud as his neon sneakers, one pink and one yellow. He missed his first two shots but had three quick assists, including a no-look, behind-the-back dish to Andrew Wiggins. He finished with seven assists in 26 minutes.

The two-time MVP hit a 5.2-meter jumper for his first basket early in the second quarter, then got a huge reaction for a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc shortly before halftime. He was 3 of 11 from 3-point range.

“It feels like the first day of school pretty much all over again,” the 31-year-old Curry said earlier in the day after shootaround. “It’s kind of just getting back to enjoying playing basketball at the highest level. There’s a process to that.”

During the shootaround, Curry also spoke about his desire to compete for the U.S. national team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The three-time NBA champion, who withdrew his name from 2016 Rio Olympic consideration due to lingering ankle and knee injuries, would be finished for the season in mid-April for the NBA-worst Warriors, giving him ample time before Team USA gathers after the NBA Finals in mid-June ahead of the 2020 Games, which begin July 24.

“There’s a lot of time before now and then, but I’ve always had that on my radar,” Curry said of the Olympics. “It wasn’t really a thought until recently when I’m getting back to where I’m ready to play.”

He added: “Right now the focus, obviously, is just trying to stay healthy these last 20 games, get my rhythm back, get to the level of basketball I know I’m capable of playing.”

Norman Powell scored a career-high 37 points for Toronto, which clinched a playoff berth with the win in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. The Raptors won that series in six games, finishing with a victory in Golden State’s final game at its old arena in Oakland.

Kyle Lowry added 26 points and 10 assists, and Serge Ibaka had 13 points and 13 rebounds for Toronto, which won at Phoenix on Tuesday night to end a three-game losing streak.

“Knowing that Steph was coming back, we knew it was going to be a great night, a great atmosphere,” Lowry said. “One of the best players in the league was coming back from injury, we were a little more focused and concentrated on him, but coming in here, it’s a great regular season game.”

Damion Lee scored 23 points and Marquese Chriss had 17 points and 12 rebound for the Warriors, who have lost 10 straight at home.

Golden State trailed 62-55 at halftime but took an 85-83 lead in the third on Eric Paschall’s 3-pointer — with Curry on the bench, no less.

After Toronto regained the lead, Paschall knotted it up at 95-95 on a free throw with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors countered with five straight points. A 3-pointer by Lowry and a powerful dunk from OG Anunoby helped Toronto stretch the lead moments later.

Curry checked back in with 3:51 left and hit a falling layup with two minutes remaining that pulled the Warriors within 113-108. Wiggins added a 3-pointer to make it 113-111, but Pascal Siakam made two baskets in 15 seconds to keep Toronto’s lead safe.

In Other Games

Nuggets 114, Hornets 112

Clippers 120, Rockets 105

Sixers 125, Kings 108

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