TORONTO — The Golden State Warriors were dangling over the precipice, juggling mounting injury issues and struggling to get much of anything from Stephen Curry.
There were red flags everywhere for the defending champs early in Sunday’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals: Curry missed his first six shots, center DeMarcus Cousins committed two early fouls after making a surprise start, forward Andre Iguodala was forced from the game after a nasty collision, and backup center Kevon Looney suffered a chest contusion that ended his night early. The Toronto Raptors were in total control and appeared to be on the verge of taking a 2-0 series lead, a deficit the Warriors have never faced during Coach Steve Kerr’s five-year tenure.
But just as the Warriors pulled together in the minutes after losing Kevin Durant to a leg injury in the playoffs’ second round, they delivered another classic response by reeling off a crowd-silencing, 18-0 run to open the third quarter. By night’s end, Golden State had claimed a 109-104 victory to seize home-court advantage and tally a road win in its 23rd consecutive playoff series. An Iguodala dagger of a three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left thwarted one final desperate push by Toronto.
“[He’s] got a lot of experience. He’s done everything in his career. He’s been in the Olympics. He’s won three rings. He’s been an all-star. He knows how to play,” Kerr said of Iguodala, who scored all eight of his points after halftime. “One of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. I think he sensed that we needed his production in that second half, and he came alive.”
Game 3 is Wednesday in Oakland, Calif.
If not for Klay Thompson, who in the fourth quarter suffered a minor hamstring injury that isn’t expected to cause him to miss time going forward, Golden State never would have been in position to rally from a 12-point second-quarter deficit. The five-time all-star shooting guard scored a team-high 25 points, including 18 in the first half as the Warriors’ attack wheezed around him. Thompson then ramped up the defensive intensity on Kawhi Leonard in the third quarter as the Warriors held the Raptors without a field goal for 6:43.
“We should have been down by a lot more than five points [at halftime],” the Warriors’ Draymond Green said. “We know we can cover that in 10 seconds, so our mind-set was great coming out of the half.”
While the Raptors have endured scoring droughts in the playoffs, their second-half lull stunned a Scotiabank Arena crowd that smelled blood in the early going. Toronto was outscored 34-21 in the third quarter, shooting shot just 7 for 22 from the field and 2 for 9 from three-point range. Three of the team’s Game 1 heroes regressed significantly: Pascal Siakam finished with 12 points on 18 shots, and Marc Gasol and Danny Green combined for only 14 points.
“Taking care of the ball and scoring it [is really important] because if you don’t, they’re coming at you really fast the other way,” Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said. “I’m going to have to re-watch that [third-quarter run]. I’m probably not going to enjoy that very much.”
Leonard led all scorers with 34 points, but he couldn’t stop the bleeding in the third quarter or dig Toronto out of a 13-point hole in the fourth. Although they generated numerous open looks, the Raptors hit just 6 of 22 three-point attempts in the second half and couldn’t find alternate sources of offense.
Golden State’s comeback should go down as another signature triumph for Curry, Thompson and Green, who collectively cranked up the defensive energy and ball movement. Despite his slow start, Curry finished with 23 points while forcing multiple turnovers. Green just missed a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, tossing picture-perfect lobs and captaining the Warriors’ defense.
“We understand what we each bring to the table and how different we all are but how much we all love winning,” Curry said of Thompson and Green, with whom he has won three titles already. “I can look to my right and my left and see those two guys and know that they believe we can win whatever game. We’re going to have that edge. We have built that over time together as a core and a unit. We have to rely on that in this series, for sure.”
Kerr was rewarded for his somewhat-surprising decision to start Cousins, who logged eight underwhelming minutes in Game 1. While Cousins continued to look a step slow as he returns from a leg injury, he scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 27 minutes — critical contributions with Looney and Thompson unable to play down the stretch.
“He was great,” Kerr said. “We came in thinking maybe he can play 20 minutes. We needed everything he gave out there. His rebounding, toughness, physical presence, getting the ball in the paint — we needed all of that.”
Golden State improved to 6-1 since losing Durant and perhaps reduced any urgency to rush him into this matchup. That decision can wait, though, as the Warriors savor Sunday’s sweet, series-altering escape.
Highlights and quarter-by-quarter recaps
Fourth quarter: Warriors 109, Raptors 104
Golden State, which trailed through most of the first half, led nearly all of the second half in a 109-104 win in Game 2. The NBA Finals are tied 1-1.
The fourth quarter saw the Warriors barely maintain a lead that was built on a huge run to start the third. Golden State went more than four minutes without scoring late in the game and a technical foul on Stephen Curry with just over a minute remaining allowed Toronto to draw to within five. A late Danny Green three brought it to two before former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala put the game away with a three of his own with 5.9 seconds remaining.
Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 34 and added 14 rebounds, but the Warriors got 25 points from Klay Thompson, 23 from Stephen Curry, 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists from Draymond Green, and 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists from surprise starter DeMarcus Cousins.
There were plenty of chances for the Raptors. The Warriors always had an answer. Back-to-back threes from Toronto (Kyle Lowry and Danny Green) nudged the Raptors to within four three minutes into the fourth but Quinn Cook responded with his own pair of threes to push it back to double-digits.
Serge Ibaka’s counter trimmed the lead to seven before Thompson came up limping. He had left hamstring tightness and did not return. Coach Steve Kerr later said it was “minor.” Warriors center Kevon Looney also exited for good with an injury.
Third quarter: Warriors 88, Raptors 80
Down 12 in the second quarter, Golden State reclaimed the lead less than two minutes into the third on an Andre Iguodala three. The Warriors started the second half on an 18-0 run.
Toronto didn’t score until 5 minutes 45 seconds into the third on a Fred VanVleet three. Overall, they didn’t score for 6 minutes 43 seconds. Somehow, they trailed by just eight after the frame. Kawhi Leonard led all scorers after three quarters with 28 points.
Even little-used Andrew Bogut got to make an appearance.
Second quarter: Raptors 59, Warriors 54
As Golden State struggled to score, Toronto built a double-digit lead (12), something rare in this series. The Warriors narrowed it to five late following Andre Iguodala heading to the locker room after being on the wrong end of a hard screen.
Stephen Curry didn’t look like himself for much of the half, and the Warriors certainly didn’t look like the Warriors. The team went five minutes without a field goal in the second and at one point was shooting a ghastly 29.6 percent from the floor. Curry came alive late in the second, however, hitting two threes and finishing the half with 17 points to counter Kawhi Leonard’s 16. Klay Thompson led all scorers with 18.
Pascal Siakam, however, picked up where he left off in Game 1.
Obama received a standing ovation and an MVP chant.
Fred VanVleet continues to give Toronto excellent minutes off the bench. He had an incredible trick shot in the first quarter, a quick three to start the second and another athletic drive to the rim midway through the second for a three-point play. It was part of a 10-0 run for Toronto. The super-sub finished the half with 12 points.
First quarter: Raptors 27, Warriors 26
After Toronto jumped out to an early lead, the Warriors went on a 10-0 run to take the lead late in the first quarter. Golden State’s largest lead in Game 1 was just two points; in Game 2 the team has already led by four. The Raptors responded with their own 6-0 run to recapture the lead. A foul-plagued first quarter ended with the Raptors up one.
For the Raptors, a good early sign: Kawhi Leonard got off to a strong start on offense, scoring the team’s first five points. For the Warriors, a better sign: Klay Thompson, who by his standards was somewhat quiet with 21 points in Game 1, countered with the first nine points for Golden State. Leonard finished the quarter with nine points; Thompson with 11.
This is one way to get the home crowd hyped.
This too. Remember this Game 1 hero? Pascal Siakam is only continuing to build is legend.
DeMarcus Cousins, who returned from injury in Game 1 to score three points in eight minutes, surprisingly got the start for Golden State on Sunday. Things didn’t go so well for him early on.
Obama in the house.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr made a statement.
And in a far less important fashion update . . .
Okay, there was this too.
Catch up since Game 1
NBA Finals preview
>> For years, a certain superlative — “best player in the league” — has been the sole domain of LeBron James, whose streak of consecutive NBA Finals appearances ended at eight this season. Right on cue, the LeBron-less void of this year’s playoffs has birthed a fascinating and layered debate about James’s successor. These Finals will feature three stars — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard — who can make compelling cases for the throne. (Read more)
>> Kawhi Leonard is back in the NBA Finals, but this will be a very different series than the one that helped make Leonard a household name five years ago. He no longer defers or plays in anyone’s shadow, he isn’t surrounded by legends, and he isn’t coached by one of the sport’s all-time greats. Crucially, he won’t be leading a team-wide plan to slow down a single superstar. Instead, he will be on the receiving end of such an effort. (Read more)
>> Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard should be counting the days until free agency only because they can’t wait to sign new contracts to remain in two of the best situations in the NBA. Instead, it feels like the Finals represent a dual ending. For Durant, it could conclude one of the most successful and polarizing three-year stints a professional athlete has ever had. For Leonard, it could be a one-and-done season for the ages with a team that risked it all by trading for him without assurances he would sign long-term. (Read more)
>> The Raptors franchise is making its NBA Finals debut this week, so “pinch yourself” moments are inevitable. Toronto, though, appears as ready as it will ever be for its turn on center stage when the Finals open. (Read more)
>> The Raptors have finally broken through to the NBA Finals, and to say a certain segment of Canadians are jazzed about this is to diminish the meaning of the term “jazzed.” They are not only line-up-at-4 a.m. jazzed, but line-up-at-4 a.m.-to-get-into-the-watch-party-outside-the-stadium jazzed. (Read more)
>> While they may not be able to rely on Kevin Durant breaking down defenses in isolation, the Warriors have gone back to what made them successful before Durant’s arrival: the Steph Curry-Draymond Green pick-and-roll. (Read more)
>> We’re not going to come out and say the Raptors have no chance of beating the Warriors in the NBA Finals. It’s a seven-game series, Toronto has home-court advantage and Kevin Durant may or may not play for Golden State. But based on this list of picks by people who get paid to follow the NBA ardently, it certainly doesn’t seem as if the Raptors have much of a chance. (Read more)
Full NBA Finals schedule
- Game 1; May 30: at Raptors 118, Warriors 109
- Game 2; June 2: Warriors 109, at Raptors 104
- Game 3 at Golden State: Wednesday, June 5, 9 p.m. (ABC)
- Game 4 at Golden State: Friday, June 7, 9 p.m. (ABC)
- Game 5 at Toronto (if necessary): Monday, June 10, 9 p.m. (ABC)
- Game 6 at Golden State (if necessary): Thursday, June 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)
- Game 7 at Toronto (if necessary): Sunday, June 16, 8 p.m. (ABC)