Kevin Durant calls Raptors legit title contenders after rout of Warriors; Kerr explains why Toronto brought more energy
'They have champions over there,' Durant said following Golden State's second loss of the season to Toronto
Following the Raptors' 113-93 the ultimate compliment following the game when he said they're not an up-and-coming team -- they're already here.on Wednesday night, Durant gave the Raptors
Via ESPN's Nick Friedell:
"They have champions over there,"Danny [Green] and Kawhi [Leonard]. They also have guys like Serge [Ibaka] and Kyle [Lowry] and Jonas [Valanciunas]. They got a great mix of veteran and young players. They got a new coach, but the leaders of that team have been through some wars."
"So I wouldn't call them a young team or say them beating us two times is going to give them extra confidence. They've been ballin' before that, and they're going to be ballin' after they beat us. So they're not an up-and-coming team. They're here."
For those that missed the game, the Raptors didn't just beat the Warriors for the second time this season -- they blew them out without two of their top players in Kawhi Leonard and Jonas Valanciunas. Leonard was ruled out prior to the game and Valanciunas left during the first half due to a thumb injury.
Toronto, back in action Friday against the Blazers (10 p.m. ET -- watch on fuboTV with the NBA League Pass extension), carried a 16-point lead into halftime and actually increased that margin with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka as its two best players. While Lowry and Ibaka are certainly solid veterans, this wasn't an illustration of Lowry and Ibaka's dominance -- it was an illustration of just how deep the Raptors' bench and how suffocating their defense can be.
It became apparent early in the game that the Warriors couldn't match the Raptors' intensity despite the absence of Leonard and the fact that Golden State was playing at home. Head coach Steve Kerr attributed it to the mentality that the Warriors are no longer the hunters -- they're now the hunted.
"We're now in a place where we're defending a title and defending sort of a mantle that we've had for several years, and it's a different vibe," Kerr said. "It's a different feeling than when you're on the climb like Toronto is, like Milwaukee is, like we were a few years ago. It's a different feeling, it's a different vibe. It's harder to get up for each game, and so there are certain nights where you can just feel it, you don't have that energy, and if you played in the NBA, you've coached in this league, you understand it. If you've followed it closely, you understand that. It's not an excuse, it's just reality. So we did not bring the required energy."
Although it's early in the season and the Warriors have still yet to feature All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in the lineup, it's become rather clear that the Raptors are not only the biggest threat to Golden State repeating as NBA champions -- they've established themselves as the best team in the league through the early portion of the 2018-19 season.
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