Courtesy of Inquirer Sports.
Hours before Game 3, Steve Kerr announced both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson would be unavailable, unable to play in a perhaps a pivotal battle in the greater war that is the 2018/2019 NBA Finals. A golden opportunity was there for the Toronto Raptors to go up 2-1 in the series, and they seized it, holding the Golden State Warriors at arms-length, stiff-arming the defending champs en route to a win. Here are a few thoughts from their victory.
1. Toronto's supporting cast stepped up, BIG time.
While Game 2 of the Finals saw the Raptors supporting cast throw up fouls instead of buckets, Game 3, in delicious contrast, was a riveting return to form. Six Raptors - including all five starters - scored in double digits, attacking the Warriors from all angles. Danny Green lit it up from deep, shooting 6/10 from 3-point land (and giving this Heat fan vividly disturbing flashbacks). Kyle Lowry bounced back from Game 2 to drop 23 points on 8/16 shooting, going 5/9 from deep. Siakam added a solid 18 points, also on 8/16 shooting, and flashed some pretty footwork while carving up the depleted Warriors defence.
Overall the Raptors supporting cast were the highlight of the game, showing off the depth the Raptors have been lauded for the past few years.
2. The Warriors defense was atrocious.
While the Raptors did their job making plays, the Warriors defense certainly wasn’t going to stop them tonight. Multiple times they were beat down the court off misses, leading to 18 fast-break points for the Raptors. Even once they settled into the half-court, they gave up plenty of back-door cuts and wide open threes. In the Warriors defense, they were without Thompson (an elite perimeter defender) and Durant, an underrated all-around defender. If they return in the series, the Warriors defense should improve.
3. Kawhi Leonard had yet another dominant playoff performance... shocking, right?
To no surprise, Kawhi Leonard continued dominating in this year’s playoffs. He stuffed the stat sheet, putting up 30 points on 9/17 shooting, adding 10/11 from the free-throw line, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks. With the supporting cast doing their job, Leonard picked his spots to score, stymying any real attempt by the Warriors to close the gap. He also showed an improved ability to make plays and see the court, one of the few skill areas Leonard still has to improve on.
This kick-out to Lowry is terrific, and if Leonard masters it while the receiver knocks the shot down, the best player in this year's playoffs will only get that much better.
4. Chef Curry was cooking.
The lone bright spot for the Warriors on Wednesday night was Stephen Curry, who reminded the world of two things:
1. He’s an elite superstar basketball player that will go down as an all-time best, and;
2. Basketball is a team sport; you can’t win it on your own.
Nonetheless, Curry did his best, finishing with 47 points on 14/31 shooting, 6/14 from deep, to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He came out the gate firing on all cylinders, dropping 17 points in the first quarter, and was the only reason the Warriors hung around throughout the game. In the end though, his efforts weren’t enough, and he joins LeBron James as the only other player to drop 47+ points in a Finals game and lose.
5. Warrior’s injuries are a major factor for the rest of the series.
It’s a known rule that injuries are a part of any professional sport, no matter how unfair they may feel. The Warriors have enjoyed the benefit of the injury before, and now they’re being hurt because of it. That said, there’s still optimism that the Warriors could get over their injury problem and win this series; Klay Thompson has already been cleared to play in Game 4 this Friday. and there is hope that Durant could return for Game 5 or 6. It’s weird to think of health as an x-factor, but here we are.
With all their starters back on the floor, the Warriors will no doubt be favored to win; the question is, will it be too late by then?