TORONTO — Drake got his jersey at the end of the night. But Golden State star Kevin Durant offered up plenty of other memories for the 20,073 on hand in Toronto and a national TV audience on both sides of the border.
There was the three-pointer from the corner with 8.6 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. And the 13 straight points to end the third quarter, capped off by a 32-foot three-pointer as the clock wound down.
Not to mention a dizzying array of dunks, layups and other sleights of hand the rest of the evening.
"He was just stunning," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. "How hot he was and how smooth he looked out there while he was doing it."
When the dust settled, Durant had a season-high 51 points in a wild 131-128 loss to the Raptors on Thursday night. Once again shouldering the load in the absence of the injured Steph Curry and Draymond Green, Durant put on a show that had the Warriors PR staff getting blisters pounding out social media updates on his evening's exploits.
Golden State trailed by as many as 18 after a red-hot Raptors start, then reeled Toronto in and made things very interesting.
"What a game. An incredible basketball game for the fans to watch," said Kerr. "We came up just short. We may have got a little fatigued at the end but I'm really proud of our effort. That was an amazing game."
Durant finished with a season-high 51 points — three off a career best — adding 11 rebounds and six assists. The glittering performance followed a 49-point night Monday against Orlando and 44 against Sacramento last Saturday.
"I've just got to do what's required at this point," said Durant, bags of ice taped to both knees. "There's going to be some games where we've got a great team game going, where we can beat teams with the flow of our offence ... There's going to be some games where I've got to go get buckets."
"Tonight we were down early, we were down big and I just tried to be aggressive and go get a bucket."
Durant, a free agent after this season, says his only goal is "being the best version of me that I can each possession on both ends."
Mission accomplished, although Kawhi Leonard proved to be a worthy adversary with a 37-point performance.
It was Durant's sixth career 50-point game and his second 50-point/10-rebound performance. He is the only player to record two 50-point games against the Raptors — he had 51 points and 12 rebound in Toronto in March 2014.
Durant joins Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Curry as the only Warriors to post three consecutive 40-point games.
Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson, meanwhile, join the 1961-62 Lakers trio of Elgin Baylor, Rudy LaRusso and Jerry West as the only sets of three teammates to each record a 50-point game in the same season.
Asked why Durant has been so hot, Kerr had no answer.
"You're going to have to ask him. He's just in a groove. He's that talented though, where if he starts to feel it, he can get any shot he wants pretty much any time. When he's feeling it, there's not a whole lot the defence can do."
Durant's score by quarter was 12, 8, 18, 9 and 4.
Drake was up on his feet courtside for much of the final minutes. Durant said later that the Raptors global ambassador and resident hip-hip megastar had asked him for his jersey.
Durant obliged, but made Drake pay with his play.
"He talks a lot of trash over there on that sideline. So any time I can throw it back in his face, it's definitely a win for me," he said with a smile.
Listed at six foot nine and 240 pounds, Durant is like an amalgam of every position on the floor. He can run the offence, dunk or dip into a deadly shooting arsenal.
Wearing white-and-orange shoes that looked like fuzzy slippers from afar, he bamboozled one Raptor after another. At one point, he buried a shot with the seven-foot Jonas Valanciunas — arm raised — in his face.
Toronto improved to an NBA-best 19-4 while Golden State slipped to 15-8. The Warriors are 10-2 with Curry but 5-6 without him.
But Kerr refused to see it as a moral victory.
"All I know is that we judge our guys on effort and how hard we play together. And we did that tonight."
Combining their 2018-19 salaries, Curry and Green made for US$55 million worth of benchwarmers. Curry is expected back Saturday in Detroit.
"Everything gets better," said Kerr, when asked what how much easier things will be with Curry's return. "Food tastes better, you guys' questions get better.
"Obviously we've been looking forward to getting him back but I'm proud of the way the guys have fought without him. And hopefully Draymond won't be too far behind him. And we'll have a better flow and a better feel for who our team really is.
"But in the meantime we're doing a good job holding down the fort."
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