Rival Watch: What U.S. media is saying after Raptors dominate Warriors

Eric Smith and Michael Grange discuss the Toronto Raptors picking up and impressive over the Golden State Warriors on the road.

The Toronto Raptors are an NBA-best 23-7 through 30 games this season. They lead the league — East and West — by 3.5 games, and in Wednesday night’s impressive 113-93 road win over the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Toronto took another massive step toward establishing themselves as legitimate contenders for the NBA title.

Two weeks ago, the Warriors had legitimate excuses when they lost to the Raptors in Toronto. They were without their star point guard in Steph Curry, and one of their key pests — I mean, players — in Draymond Green. And this time, with the Raptors star forward Kawhi Leonard missing his second straight game with a sore hip, the healthy Warriors were licking their lips with a chance to make a statement against the NBA’s top team, especially at home at Oracle Arena where the Raptors hadn’t won in 13 years.

Toronto, led by Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, however, had other plans.

Under the U.S. national spotlight and over all of the chatter of a potential NBA Finals preview, the shorthanded Raptors put forth one of their most dominant performances of the season, and justifiably so, the media in the United States took notice.

Here’s a roundup of what some of the U.S. media outlets — and even players — are saying about Toronto’s triumph in Oakland.

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Sports Illustrated — Raptors Prove They Can Challenge the Warriors Like Few Teams Can

This was an aberration. Some teams can outwork the Warriors when they meet in the regular season and occasionally outshoot them, but they almost never tear the defending champs apart in such systematic fashion—least of all with their best player out of the lineup.

Toronto played with glimmering intention. Whenever Kyle Lowry forced a switch among the Warriors’ defenders, it was almost always a precursor for some larger play. It wasn’t enough for the Raptors to create a mismatch—they had to create one that might cause Golden State to scramble, triggering an even better opportunity on the other side of the floor. Playing against the Warriors can be flummoxing for some, but the Raptors operated with the full knowledge of every action and reaction.

This looks every bit like one of the class teams in the East and in the league. Toronto could have jogged through this game and chalked it up as a schedule loss made worse by Leonard’s hip injury. Instead, they played hard and well and with incredible coherence.

San Francisco Chronicle — Warriors look vulnerable in blowout loss to Toronto

NBA fans spent much of last summer bemoaning the end to something resembling competitive balance. Their frustration seemed warranted: With LeBron James on a flawed Lakers team and DeMarcus Cousins now on the Warriors, who realistically could dethrone the back-to-back champions?

More than a third of the way through the season, the Raptors have asserted themselves as perhaps Golden State’s biggest threat since Cleveland prevailed in the 2016 NBA Finals. In the Warriors’ 113-93 loss to Toronto on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena, they were thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the court, encouraging those eager to see the demise of Golden State’s dynasty.

That the Raptors were playing the second game of a back-to-back set without Kawhi Leonard (hip injury) only underscored their legitimacy as a contender.

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ESPN — Kevin Durant praises Raptors: ‘They have champions over there’

Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant offered some high praise for the Toronto Raptors after watching the Eastern Conference powerhouse knock off the back-to-back defending NBA champions for the second time in less than two weeks.

“They have champions over there,” Durant said following a 113-93 loss to the Raptors on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena. “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.”

The Raptors’ defense was on point throughout the night against a healthy Warriors group that could never find a rhythm. To put the defensive performance in perspective, the 93 points the Warriors scored were the fourth fewest they’ve scored when Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Durant have all played together. Curry, who was recently named the Western Conference Player of the Week, went just 3-for-12 from the field and scored just 10 points.

The Athletic San Francisco — Five observations from the Warriors’ 113-93 home loss to the Raptors

In Kerr’s five seasons, only two East teams have swept the season series 2-0 over the Warriors. The first came last season when the Pacers beat them twice in April, as an injured Curry rested and a bored Warriors team floated toward the playoffs.

The Raptors just became that second team, doing it in much more impressive fashion, holding off a Durant storm in Toronto and then pounding the healthy Warriors on Wednesday in Oakland.

The Raptors are now a league-best 23-7. LeBron James has exited their conference. Kawhi is on their roster. They appear primed for a push to the Finals. But don’t call them a young, up-and-coming team.

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