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The Warriors are quick to recite their defensive statistics, most of which illustrate an ability to stop their opponents, at least most of them, most of the time.
When faced with a quality opponent capable of playing stifling defense, though, the Warriors seem to lose focus on offense and, moreover, lose their edge on defense.
So they don't have to look far to find answers to their latest defeat, a painful 104-98 loss to the Raptors on Sunday at Air Canada Centre. The Warriors, quite simply, weren't up to task on defense and were sloppy in crucial times on offense.
In a game with 21 lead changes and 11 ties, the Warriors fought back to take an 86-81 lead with 8:49 left to play. The Raptors responded with an 11-0 run to go up seven (92-86) with 5:58 left.
The Warriors (36-24) couldn't pull themselves together well enough to again pull even, much less take a lead.
“We didn't take care of the basketball down the stretch,” coach Mark Jackson said. “Little things like that are going to cost you, and they certainly cost us tonight.
“We didn't close out possessions . . . just a bad loss for us. That's a good team, a well-coached team enjoying a very good year. But a bad loss for us.”
It's hard to win a close game on the road when an opponent shoots 57.1 percent in the fourth quarter, as Toronto (33-26) did – and it's almost impossible to clear a path to victory when in that same quarter you commit six turnovers, as the Warriors did.
“We just lost our composure on the offensive end a little bit and didn't play solid enough on the other end,” Stephen Curry accurately summarized.
Curry was by turns spectacular – 20 first-half points, a game-high 34 – and sloppy. His seven assists were more than offset by six turnovers, four of which came in the fourth quarter.
“Steph is good enough, no matter what defense he's seeing, to not leave it with six turnovers,” Jackson said. “He knows he's got to be better.”
Well, yes. For the Warriors to reach serious contender level, Curry has to reduce turnovers, especially at crucial times.
But Curry also needs more consistent offensive help from his teammates, particularly Klay Thompson and, to a lesser degree, Andre Iguodala. Thompson followed a strong effort in New York on Friday with a 4-for-15 shooting night that included several wide-open misses.
Curry is, of course, the Warriors' best player. Thompson, however, is at least as likely to dictate wins and losses. When he's good, they're good. When he's not, winning requires someone else to have a huge night.
That's an unreliable formula on most nights, downright futile against a good Raptors squad.
THE GOOD: Curry was at times outstanding, and Blake performed well in limited minutes as the point guard off the bench.
Lee, who missed two games with stomach flu, clearly is getting his wind back. He played 43 generally productive minutes.
Barnes and Blake performed well off the bench.
THE BAD: The late turnovers killed every chance of a late rally, and Curry was the chief culprit. Any thought of Jackson turning to Blake poses a quandary. Does he stay with a struggling Thompson, who at least is a long defender, and a shorter Blake, who at the moment has a more reliable shot?
The defense was spotty enough that different Raptors kept finding ways to score. Five finished in double figures, with Amir Johnson and Landry Fields combining for another 17 points.
Bogut had no early answer for big man Jonas Valanciunas, who made his first five shots.
THE TAKE: The Warriors' rededication to defense, so visible in their first few games after the All-Star break, broke down in all but the third quarter, when they held Toronto to 27.6 percent shooting. Outside of those 12 minutes, the Raptors fired in comfort. Credit them for finding the holes.
But blame the Warriors for not finding a way to lock down at key moments. The result was losing the pivotal game of the road trip. Sweeping the last two games is an exceedingly tall task, but it's the only way they can salvage a winning trip.