What we learned from the Warriors’ thrilling win over the Raptors

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    After stunning the Toronto Raptors with an 81-point first half, the Golden State Warriors avoided an epic collapse in the second, escaping the Air Canada Centre with a 127-125 win on Saturday.

    On a night when the Warriors and the Raptors produced a wild spectacle of a game and the hosts suffered just their third home loss of the season, here’s what you need to know…

    Kevin Durant saved the day. For the third time in as many games since returning from calf strain, Durant was highly efficient from the field. The reigning Finals MVP knocked down 10 of 18 shoots in Toronto, leaving him with a field-goal percentage of 64.3 following his three-game absence.

    Durant also nailed the three biggest shots of the night. Amid the third-quarter free-fall, Durant knocked down triples at the 3:08 and 2:35 mark, respectively, turning what had been a nine-point affair into a 13-point game.

    Then in the fourth, Durant sank a clutch 22-footer, pushing the lead from 123-122 to 125 -122.

    But now back to that second-half swoon…

    The grind of the back-to-back finally caught up to the Warriors in the third quarter. It wasn’t until the opening period of the second half that the Warriors started to look like a team playing on the second leg of a back-to-back. Not to mention, a team that hadn’t made it to the hotel until 3 a.m., according to the NBC Sports Bay Area Broadcast.

    After beginning the third with a 27-point advantage, that lead would shrink to just nine — before the aforementioned Durant 3-pointers stabilized the situation.

    While a mini-resurgence, powered by Durant and Curry (11 points in th quarter), gave the Warriors a 108-89 lead heading into the final frame, the fourth was when things got really dicey.

    At one point, the Raptors ripped off 14 unanswered, twice moving to within a single point but never managing to overrun the Warriors.

    There was a nervy moment with just over a minuted left on the clock when an aggressive foul from Jakob Poeltl on Stephen Curry under the basket left the two-time MVP writhing on the floor — face buried in his hands as he collected himself.

    Part of the reason behind the near-collapse was that the second-half rotation was thrown out of whack. Head coach Steve Kerr was searching for a fifth member of the death lineup with Andre Iguodala was unavailable after the break.

    Iguodala, who has been questionable with a hip flexor strain, was +18 in eight first-half minutes but didn’t see the floor in the second.

    In the veteran’s absence, Kerr leaned heavily on Kevon Looney and David West to close out the win. While Looney played 21 minutes and West totaled 15, Jordan Bell and JaVale McGee both drew DNPs for the second time in as many games.

    The center rotation remains confusing, but Kerr’s faith in Looney keeps growing. A night after Looney played a season-high 23 minutes in the win over his hometown Milwaukee Bucks, the backup big man eclipsed the 20-minute plateau for the second time in as many nights and just the third time on the season. Looney had four boards, none more important that the offensive rebound he secured with 34 seconds to go, setting up Durant’s clutch 22-footer.

    The Warriors’ first half was amazing. The Warriors 81-point barrage marked the club’s highest output in the opening half of a road game in the past 25 years. The team shot 71.1 percent from the field, but perhaps more impressive was the 22-1 turnover to assist ratio.

    Oh, and Curry had just six points amid the onslaught. Sometimes all it takes is the mere presence of the Baby-Faced Assassin to feel the Curry Effect.

    kbuscheck@sfexaminer.com

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