Playoff Bound

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Reigning Champs Clinch Playoff Berth with Win Over Curry, Warriors

Former league MVP Stephen Curry made his long-awaited return from hand surgery on Thursday night, but the real story in the Bay Area was once again the reigning champions.

With a 121-113 hard-fought victory, the Toronto Raptors clinched a seventh consecutive playoff berth.

Knowing that Steph was coming back, we knew it was going to be a great night, a great atmosphere,” said Kyle Lowry, who picked up exactly where he left off in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year, finishing the night with 26 points and 10 rebounds in the win. . “One of the best players in the league was coming back from injury, we were a little more focused and concentrated on him, but coming in here, it’s a great regular season game.”

Led by a career-high 37 points from Norman Powell, the Raptors continued to give the Warriors hell in their home arena. Serge Ibaka returned to the court in a big way, putting up a 13 points and 13 rebounds double-double. Meanwhile Pascal Siakam, who struggled mightily all game, was absolutely huge down the stretch, hitting two vital shots in the waning minute of action.

“I think that it was a high energy building tonight and they were playing well,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I expected it to be a really close game tonight and there were no illusions in my mind that it wouldn’t be.”

Powell specifically has been remarkable since his return from injury. The Raptors wing will most definitely receive some consideration for Most Improved Player of the Year, and despite missing a number of games in between a shoulder and hand injury, Powell has very clearly taken his game up a notch and has remained consistently great all year. Not allowing the time off break up his rhythm, the 26 year old guard has been relentless attacking the rim, plays very well through contact, and his three-point shot has turned into a legitimate weapon.

Down the stretch, the Raptors will look to Norm as a key weapon as they continue to get healthier and continue to make a push for the number two seed.

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