SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — In an injury-riddled season where there has been little to cheer about, Golden State Warriors fans were re-energized with the return of star Steph Curry to the line-up.
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.
Mike Rogers, a longtime Warriors fan, said the result didn’t mean much, but Curry’s return showed hope for a better future.
“It’s a lot different because he brings a lot of excitement,” he said. Fans get fired up.”
Noise rocked off the rafters of the Chase Center each time Curry entered the game.
“The energy is insane,” Sean Xavier said. “Steph Curry brings the energy.”
One of Curry’s biggest and youngest fans was thrilled to see him returning to his old form.
“It felt so good, as soon as I got here a big smile came on my face,” 7-year-old Trent Fuller said.
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 17-footer 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 for the game.
“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.”
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 the Raptors, who 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 tied it at 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.
Lee stole the ball from Powell with 25.8 seconds left and was fouled by Powell. But he missed both free throws and then two 3-point tries after consecutive offensive rebounds.
Curry practiced Monday with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors, then was recalled later in the day in a most anticipated promotion. His return to action came without most of his familiar supporting cast — Draymond Green missed his fourth straight game with a left knee injury, and Klay Thompson remains out with a torn left ACL.
Curry and Lowry chatted recently, and Lowry kidded about pulling a box-and-1 defense against Curry again.
“I’m expecting anything,” Curry said. “I talked to Kyle the other day and he joked about it, he might throw it back out there. Obviously last time we played them it was a terrible feeling losing in the Finals, but obviously the situation’s different this year, but there’s excitement about what tonight’s going to be, me getting back out there and guys coming off a huge win in Denver, trying to build momentum.”
Raptors: Toronto had lost 13 of its last 14 on the Warriors’ home court. … The Raptors are 8-3 on the road vs. the Western Conference. … The Raptors are the only opponent that swept the season series from the Warriors last season.
Warriors: Golden State hasn’t won at home since beating Orlando 109-95 on Jan. 18. They 7-25 at home overall and 2-9 against the Eastern Conference.
Warriors: Host the 76ers on Saturday night having lost 115-104 at Philadelphia on Jan. 28.
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