NBA fans expect certain teams to give the undefeated Golden State Warriors a tough game, though it's unlikely they envision those clubs coming from the Atlantic Division.
After the Atlantic leaders again took the defending champions right down to the wire, the Brooklyn Nets take another shot at handing the Warriors their first loss Sunday and ending the best start to a season among America's four major pro leagues.
Golden State improved to 21-0 with a 112-109 win in Toronto on Saturday that had its share of tense moments and was eerily reminiscent of a Nov. 17 home win over the Raptors.
Toronto rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit and pulled within one in the closing minute of that contest before Stephen Curry hit four free throws to close out the 115-110 victory. Saturday's script was similar with the Raptors tightening it up midway through the fourth quarter after trailing by 10 at the break.
However, the script was also the same for Curry in another electrifying performance. The league's leading scorer had 44 points - his seventh game this season with at least 40 - while shooting 14 of 24 overall and 9 for 15 from long range, including back-to-back 3s down the stretch that took the steam out of Toronto's push.
Curry barely overshadowed Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who scored a career-best 41.
With both Andrew Bogut (back) and Harrison Barnes (left ankle) sitting out, the Warriors got 26 points from Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green chipped in 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The victory was Golden State's 25th straight dating to last season - the NBA's third-longest streak behind the 1971-72 Lakers (33) and the 2012-13 Heat (27). They also passed baseball's 1884 St. Louis Maroons for the best start in the four major pro sports, and one more will tie the 1969-70 Knicks for the best road start in league history at 12-0.
"It's really good," said Curry, who is scoring 32.6 points per game. "Twenty-one different challenges and we've been able to separate each one individually and figure out different ways of winning. It's been fun."
Golden State is 3-0 on a seven-game trip that will offer another stiff test Tuesday at Indiana, but not before the Nets get their turn at Barclays Center - the only place where they've been winning.
Brooklyn (5-14) sits next to last in the Atlantic but has picked up most of its victories during a four-game home winning streak. Golden State has also dropped two straight at Barclays after a 110-108 loss in its most recent visit March 2.
The Nets may like their chances in this one considering they're catching Golden State at the tail end of a back-to-back set and the fact they're the only team this season to push the Warriors beyond regulation, losing 107-99 in overtime Nov. 14.
Curry scored 21 of his 34 points after halftime in that one and Andre Iguodala, who has gone scoreless in two of his last three, hit a clutch 3-pointer in the extra period to lift Golden State. Jarrett Jack scored 28 points and Thaddeus Young had 24 for Brooklyn.
The Nets showed how vulnerable they are to giving up a lot of points Friday against rival New York, allowing 42 in the first quarter of a 108-91 loss.
"Well, that was a nightmare," coach Lionel Hollins said. "We didn't come ready to compete early and they jumped on us."
Brooklyn needs to clean that up against the Warriors, who lead the NBA with an average of 30.2 points in the opening quarter and were ahead 36-21 after the first on Nov. 14.