Warriors nail Steve Kerr’s blueprint in much-needed win over Raptors

SAN FRANCISCO — Steve Kerr during his pregame press conference Friday night at Chase Center laid out the blueprint for the Warriors to beat the Toronto Raptors.

Hero ball could not be an option. The game could not turn into a glorified contest of 1-on-1. Ball movement was a must.

Toronto is long and likes to switch everything on defense. The Warriors had to take care of the ball, an aspect they have struggled with all season long. This time, the tone was set early on.

Golden State seemed to hear Kerr loud and clear. There was a clear game plan, and execution showed up in the Warriors’ 129-117 win over the Raptors.

“We know they’re going to switch everything and they’ve got all those long, athletic guys,” Kerr said before tipoff. “So you’d have to move them. You can’t just let them sit in boxes and elbows and keep accepting a switch and trying to beat guys 1-on-1. The ball has to move. You got tom move their defense around and make them switch multiple times instead of just once.

“If you do that they’re more likely to make a mistake and you’re more likely to get open shots.”

The Raptors entered Friday leading the NBA in averaging 9.4 steals per game. They were also allowing the fifth-most assists per game.

The Warriors took advantage, with their offense rarely, if ever, feeling stale and stagnant. The ball was hot, flying everywhere with precision. It started early, too.

The Warriors tallied 13 assists in the first quarter. That number moved to 21 by halftime and 32 through three quarters. Usually, the Warriors’ number to circle is 30. They exceeded that before the fourth quarter even began.

In the end, the Warriors set a new season-high of 40 assists. Their previous high was 38 in a seven-point win against the Houston Rockets on Nov. 20, 2022.

“Yeah, for the most part,” Kerr said after the win when asked if the Warriors nailed the pregame plan. “The ball was moving and you have to do that against this team. They’re too good with their switches and just staying in front of dribblers.

“You got to attack them with the pass and with cutting and I thought we did a good job of that.”

Klay Thompson, who accounted for 29 points, six 3-pointers and one assist in the party, had a bit of a shorter explanation for the Warriors’ success.

Happy teammates, happy life.

“Forty assists equals great ball movement, equals everybody is happy, so I’m happy,” he said.

Steph Curry shimmied his way to a game-high 35 points full of efficiency. He went 13-for-21 from the field, 4-for-8 from 3-point range and made all five of his free throws. Curry also dished 11 assists.

As did Donte DiVincenzo. His 11 assists set a new career high. Prior to Friday night, he had never handed out more than nine assists in a game and his high with the Warriors was eight. Whether it’s what the numbers say or the eye test, this is nothing new with DiVincenzo.

He put together an extending stretch of games together where it’s becoming more and more clear how valuable he is to the Warriors. DiVincenzo was a menace on defense and recorded two steals. He scored 12 points and drained two of his five 3-point attempts.

For a team that can play so scattered, his stability is exactly what the Warriors need.

“Donte was fantastic again,” Kerr said. “He’s had such a great stretch now over the last six, eight weeks. He just competes. He’s just a guard. He’s not a point guard, not a two guard. He’s just a basketball player.

“He had 11 assists, moved the ball beautifully, competes defensively. Donte’s just been amazing for us.”

Along with setting a career-high for assists in a game, DiVincenzo also set a season-high in plus/minus. In 33 minutes off the bench, he was a plus-24.

Some live and die by plus/minus. Others brush it to the side. DiVincenzo took the high road.

“I had no idea I was plus-24,” DiVincenzo said. “I don’t know. I think sometimes it’s skewed when I’m playing with two of the best shooters of all time.”

Assists are great, although they don’t tell the whole story. The Warriors lead the league in assists, yet with the win they are now 25-24 on the season. They also rank second to the 11-win Rockets in turnovers per game.

At first, it looked like the Warriors were in for another sloppy night. Within the first 32 seconds of the game, they turned the ball over twice. The rest of the quarter, there were no more turnovers. By halftime, the Warriors had only turned the ball over four times. The previous game, they racked up 14 turnovers through the first two quarters, which amounted to 29 points for the Grizzlies.

Overall, the Warriors finished with 14 turnovers — including Curry letting the clock run out in the end. Still, that’s two fewer than what they average, and the Raptors only scored 15 points off turnovers. To go from winning two games in a row to growing a winning streak, the Warriors will have to continue sharing the wealth while valuing the ball even more as they head out on a three-game road trip.

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Curry will take the Warriors’ win over the Raptors, just as he enjoyed beating the Grizzlies. Now it’s time for more.

“We’ve been kind of teetering on either side of .500 for a very long time,” Curry said. “Kind of sick of it at this point. Got to figure out how to keep moving in the right direction and stack wins no matter how we can get them.”

The blueprint was made as clear as possible beforehand, and it proved to be true in the end. Now another test awaits.

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