TORONTO - With a mischievous look glued to his face, Kyle Lowry listened intently from the neighbouring locker as DeMar DeRozan spoke with the media after Sunday night's win.
Making faces in the background and chiming in with the occasional one-liner, Lowry attempted to distract his teammate, to little success.
DeRozan was coming off another remarkable performance, scoring an efficient 32 points in Toronto's impressive 104-98 bounce-back victory over the Warriors.
As the Raptors' all-star guard was informed that he had just exceeded 30 points for the fourth time in the last six games, Lowry expressed his admiration, shouting "damn".
"Whatever I say about Kyle is an understatement," said DeRozan. "We go off him to be honest, man. That's a hell of a player right there. He's the reason why I'm getting 30 points."
Lowry, still lurking next to the scrum, let out a high-pitched and playful "awwww".
This exchange was not unusual. Often following a win, the Raptors' backcourt duo can be found sharing a laugh in the locker room but the bond they've developed is especially beneficial after a loss. Once Dwane Casey has finished addressing his team and the players return to their respective lockers, DeRozan and Lowry will usually break off to discuss the game, what went wrong and how to correct it.
Their friendship is not put on and the chemistry that has been built this season, on and off the floor, has a lot to do with their individual and collective success. Lowry's fingerprints are all over DeRozan's career year, and vice-versa. Together, they are the leaders of a team that genuinely enjoys going to battle for one another and it showed again on Sunday, as the Raptors toppled a formidable foe in the Warriors.
Golden State was responsible for the Raptors' lowest point of the season, a 27-point collapse in Oakland at the beginning of December. Toronto has lost only two games all year when leading after three quarters. They blew an 18-point fourth quarter advantage that night.
"The way that we lost was definitely tough, we understood that coming into tonight," DeRozan said. "I think all the guys that were here [for it remembers that loss] because it sucks to lose like that."
This time, at home and coming off a disappointing triple-overtime defeat, Toronto returned the favour. Trailing by three going into the final frame, the Raptors got 12 points from DeRozan as they outscored Golden State by nine in the fourth and earned their first win over the Warriors in eight tries with Stephen Curry in uniform.
The Warriors' guards - Curry and Klay Thompson - are the highest scoring backcourt pair in the NBA, with DeRozan and Lowry just behind them. Curry continued to give the Raptors fits, scoring a game-high 34 but Thompson was held to just 12.
Playing some of the best basketball of his career over the last couple of weeks, DeRozan needed just 16 shots - hitting 10 - to collect his 32 points, facing an elite wing defender in Andre Iguodala. For the third straight game, the fifth-year guard made at least 12 trips to the free throw line, knocking down 11. He's also recorded six assists in three consecutive contests, the first time he's done that in his career.
"Coming in, I knew he was a good player," said John Salmons, one of DeRozan's newest teammates. "I knew he could really score the ball. I knew he was athletic, but from afar, you never know how tough a guy is. He gets the best defensive guy guarding him every night. Guys that are known just for their defence. He still plays at a very high level, so I give him a lot of credit because he does it night in and night out. That's not easy to do."
"He's growing every single game," said Lowry, who added 13 points and eight assists Sunday. "This season has been a remarkable one for him, he's an all-star. Anything I say about him, vice-versa, it's an understatement."
More than half of DeRozan's 25 career 30-plus point games have come this season (13).