October 01, 2016 - 8:52 PM
VANCOUVER - Toronto Raptors rookie Pascal Siakam got his welcome-to-the-NBA moment as soon as he stepped on the floor Saturday.
His task? Try to guard Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant.
"It was crazy," said the 22-year-old Siakam. "This is the guy you watch on TV, you look up to and you get to play your first game, your first minutes against him."
And it was just a sneak peek of what the rest of the league will see all season.
Durant finished with nine points, including an uncontested dunk for his first basket with the Warriors, as Golden State fell 97-93 to Toronto in the pre-season opener for both clubs.
Signed from Oklahoma City in the off-season, Durant joins an already star-studded lineup that includes two-time reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
He was booed every time he touched the ball in Vancouver, finishing 2 of 9 from the field, including 1 for 4 from behind the three-point line.
"Felt good to play and play against someone else," said Durant. "We can start building for the season and what we want to be."
The Warriors are coming off an NBA-record 73-win season that ended with a blown 3-1 series lead and a gut-wrenching loss in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to Cleveland that denied them back-to-back titles.
Saturday was their first step towards making amends.
"We looked like a team that had four days of practice," said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who rested his starters after halftime. "Turnovers were a little disconcerting because so many of them were unforced, but we'll get better and we've got to get some good practices and get sharp."
Toronto, meanwhile, set a new franchise mark with 56 wins in 2015-16 on the way to making the Eastern Conference final for the first time.
"I think everyone's just trying to get a feel for the game," said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who finished with six points and four assists. "We're just trying to figure out pace and our speed."
DeMarre Carroll, back after a summer of rest and rehab on a wonky right knee, led the way for Toronto with 14 points, while DeMar DeRozan added 11 of his own. Jared Sullinger chipped in 10 rebounds in his Toronto debut.
Thompson scored a game-high 16 points for Golden State.
"We played hard," said DeRozan. "We made a lot of mistakes, missed a lot of free throws, had a lot of turnovers. All we've got to do is get our feel, our rhythm back."
Prior to the opening tip-off, Toronto players and staff locked arms during the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "O Canada," with some bowing their heads.
The Raptors said earlier in the week that they planned to join the growing chorus of pro athletes speaking out against police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.
"We wanted to show solidarity," said Lowry. "We're a team, we're all together, we're all one race, we're all human beings. We all understand that things in the United States and things in the world isn't the best right now."
The Warriors stood at the opposite end of the floor during the anthems, but didn't take part in any type of protest.
San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the U.S. anthem, a protest that has spread across the NFL. The NBA has a rule that players and coaches must stand during the national anthems, although it wasn't mentioned in a recent letter to players.
"Like I told our players, understand why you're doing it," said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. "It's not against the military, it's not against the flag, it's not against the country. It's their feelings on social injustice. "
Both teams went with their strongest lineups to start, with Curry, Durant, Green, Thompson and Zaza Pachulia going up against Lowry, DeRozan, Sullinger, Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas.
Durant started the game 1 for 6, but his first points for Golden State — which opened last season on a record-breaking 24-game winning streak — came by way of a dunk that had the energetic crowd at Rogers Arena on its feet.
Fans were also wowed later in the half on a DeRozan dunk before Curry set up Andre Iguodala on an alley-oop.
The game sold out in minutes after tickets went on sale, and there was a buzz around the venue more than 90 minutes before the opening tip. Support seemed evenly split, with both Raptors and Warriors jerseys, along with a number of others from around the NBA, dotting the crowd.
There were also a few supporters among the 19,000 spectators wearing gear of the Vancouver Grizzlies, who moved to Memphis in 2001 after six miserable seasons.
Kerr played against the Grizzlies as a member of both the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, and recalled those trips to Vancouver fondly.
"I remember taking half of the Spurs team up in a sea plane the day before the game," he said prior to the game. "I was sitting in the Pan Pacific hotel, staring at these sea planes taking off like, 'Man I gotta get on one of those.' I called the concierge and we set it up. I didn't tell (San Antonio coach Gregg Popovic). He would not have been happy, half of his team up in a sea plane above Whistler.
"Loved coming here, beautiful city."
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016