TORONTO — The Golden State Warriors were playing their fifth game in eight days, their third game in four days and the second of a back-to-back set.
All those fatigue-inducing circumstances looked pretty irrelevant for much of Saturday night, as the defending champions built a 27-point lead halftime lead over the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
But then in the second half, and especially the fourth quarter, the Raptors charged back, erasing that lead and bringing a once-dormant crowd to a fever pitch during the final seconds.
And the Warriors during that span? They looked flat and somewhat out of sorts — especially when Stephen Curry, who returned from a one-game absence because of a sprained right ankle, missed a pair of free throws in the final minutes.
However, the Warriors were saved by a late Kevin Durant jumper with 21.8 seconds left, helping them seal a 127-125 win over the Raptors, who were coming off a 133-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.
Curry finished with 24 points, Durant scored 25 and Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 26.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 42 points on 17-of-31 shooting from the field. Saturday marked the first time this season that the Raptors lost when DeRozan scored 30 or more points; they had been 11-0 in such games.
While temperatures were frigid outside, the NBA-best Warriors started off white-hot. They scored 43 first-quarter points, their most in an opening frame this season. They scored 81 first half points, their season high for any half.
And things really got out of hand when the Warriors used a 16-2 second-quarter run to take a 59-37 lead.
But the Raptors didn’t lay down, especially behind DeRozan, who notched his 92nd career 30-point game, passing Vince Carter for the most in Raptors history. Toronto went on a 23-6 fourth-quarter run to shrink Golden State’s lead to 116-115 with 3:54 left to play. But the Warriors got key field goals from Curry, Thompson and Durant to prevent a blown lead.
Had the Warriors lost, it would have been quite an upset. Entering Saturday, NBA teams were 988-8 when leading by 25 or more points at halftime in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Warriors earned their 12th straight road win, improving their road record to 19-3 this season. They now sit at 35-9 overall and will head to Cleveland next to face the Cavaliers on Monday, the third game of Golden State’s five-game road trip.