OAKLAND, Calif. — The terms for Game 3 weren’t set until moments before tipoff, when the Golden State Warriors finally confirmed that Klay Thompson would miss the first playoff game of his career because of a hamstring injury. That news stripped the night of its complexity, leaving this: Stephen Curry would be left to wage a one-man battle with the Toronto Raptors, with the winner taking a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
With Thompson, Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney sidelined, the Warriors needed nothing short of a spectacular performance from Curry. The two-time MVP delivered, but his 47-point tour de force wasn’t enough against the balanced and steady Raptors, who reclaimed home-court advantage with a 123-109 win at Oracle Arena.
“My dad used to tell me the stats don’t matter, just the final score,” Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said. “We’ll just take the win and be thankful for that.”
Toronto never truly buckled in the face of Curry’s onslaught, countering with hot outside shooting to maintain a lead for the game’s final 45 minutes. All five Raptors starters scored in double figures, with Kawhi Leonard notching a team-high 30 points and Danny Green pouring in six three-pointers. While the Warriors turned to Curry for answers on possession after possession, the Raptors calmly worked the ball around to register 30 assists on 43 baskets.
There were moments of valor for all five Raptors starters. Marc Gasol opened the game aggressively, applying pressure to Golden State’s interior defense and keeping DeMarcus Cousins on his heels. Pascal Siakam started hot after a quiet Game 2, using his length to help Toronto build its early lead. Leonard continued his pile-driver approach, earning 11 free throw attempts by picking his spots to attack off the dribble. And Green, the oft-overlooked shooting guard, turned back the clock with an outside shooting display reminiscent of his best work with the San Antonio Spurs a half-decade ago.
But a breakout performance from Kyle Lowry, who was beset by foul trouble and struggled to score earlier in this series, will most delight Nurse. The all-star point guard scored 23 points and had nine assists, pushing back with timely jumpers when Curry threatened to seize control in the second half.
“Kyle was huge [for our flow] all year,” Green said. “I love playing with him so much. He’s the quarterback throwing the ball ahead, which sets up the kickout looks for me. He gets paid the big bucks for doing the little things, and tonight he scored big, too. He’s a pit bull.”
Had there been a weak link in Toronto’s starting group, Curry’s career night wouldn’t have gone for naught. He slithered through the Raptors’ defense from start to finish, shedding extra defenders with in-and-out dribbles and quick-trigger step backs. He shot 14 for 31 from the field and nailed six three-pointers, drawing appreciative “M-V-P” chants from the Oracle crowd throughout the second half. After rattling in one three-pointer, Curry skipped down the court to a hearty standing ovation.
It didn’t take long to realize, though, that Curry would be lacking in help. It took nearly eight minutes for another Warriors player to make a field goal, and Curry scored or assisted on his team’s first eight. Curry’s teammates combined to shoot just 6 for 21 from beyond the arc, while Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green were the only other Warriors to reach double figures.
At halftime, Curry’s 25 points nearly matched his teammates’ combined output of 27. By night’s end, he had tallied the eighth-highest scoring total in NBA Finals history.
“He does things that honestly I don’t think anybody has ever done before,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it and the combination of his ballhandling and shooting skills, it’s incredible to watch. He was amazing.”
Squandering such an extraordinary effort from Curry in a losing effort will naturally increase the scrutiny on Thompson and Durant. On Tuesday, Kerr said he was “very hopeful” that both would return to the series. Before Game 3, Kerr said Durant was improving in his recovery from a calf injury and had gone through good workouts on both Tuesday and Wednesday with on-court work scheduled for Thursday.
“We’re missing 50 points [per game], pretty much, between KD and Klay,” Curry said. “We’ll adjust. it’s a long series. You’ve got to tip your cap to all their guys who made pivotal plays. They played well.”
Toronto proved it has enough experience and talent to survive Curry’s best solo work and enough resilience to bounce back from a deflating Game 2. The next chapter of this series will hinge on whether Curry’s help can arrive in time.
“Everybody wants to see us lose,” Draymond Green said. “I’m sure people are happy [our guys are] hurt. We just got to continue to battle and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6 and then celebrate. Fun times ahead.”
Game 4 is Friday.
Highlights and quarter-by-quarter recaps
Fourth quarter: Raptors 123, Warriors 109
The Raptors took advantage of a banged up Warriors team missing Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, holding off the defending champions despite Stephen Curry’s 47 points. It took a balanced team effort, with six players in double digits, led by Kawhi Leonard’s 30. A late three from Fred VanVleet sealed it.
Game 4 is Friday in Oakland. Raptors fans seem ready for it.
The Raptors built their largest lead (18) midway through the fourth and looked to be cruising to a 2-1 series lead.
Curry, who should have been exhausted, made several effort plays as the Warriors somehow got the lead down to 10. But the Raptors always answered.
Danny Green, whose hot hand propelled the Raptors in the third, had a huge defensive play to attempt to stymie a Warriors run earlier in the fourth.
Curry got the Warriors as close as seven, and he kept rolling.
This fan probably won’t be at Game 4.
Third quarter: Raptors 96, Warriors 83
A late push from beyond the arc gave the Raptors a boost. A pair of Danny Green three-pointers in the last couple minutes of the third quarter tied the Raptors’ largest lead of the game at 14. Moments later, Kawhi Leonard established a new largest lead on two free throws.
Speaking of Kawhi, he came to life in the third. After not scoring in the second quarter, he has 15 in the third and 24 overall.
Stephen Curry remains the engine for the Warriors, easily keeping pace for a possible 50-point night. He had 40 points at the end of the quarter.
After allowing the Warriors to start the third quarter of Game 2 on a killer 18-0 run, the Raptors scored the first six points of Game 3′s third frame. In a balanced effort, all five Raptors starters were in double digits by the end of the third.
Kyle Lowry (18 points) kept sizzling from deep.
On the plus-side for Golden State, Andre Iguodala finally broke through as the second Warrior in double digits on an alley-oop from Draymond Green.
Second quarter: Raptors 60, Warriors 52
The Raptors went nearly five minutes without scoring, but the Warriors were somehow unable to make up much ground.
Kyle Lowry finally broke the drought with a three-pointer with just under three minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Warriors did show some signs of life in a late push — a Stephen Curry three less than a minute later cut the lead to eight. Another Lowry three with about 30 seconds to go pushed the lead back to double digits. After some uneven play in Games 1 and 2, Lowry had a nice first half with 15 points to lead the Raptors. Curry led all scorers with 25 points, the most he’s ever scored in an NBA Finals half. Kawhi Leonard did not score in the second quarter.
Pascal Siakam, the hero of Game 1 for Toronto, looked like he had recovered from an iffy Game 2. Just over three minutes into the second quarter, he had 14 points. He has already logged a few highlights on the night.
After relying heavily on Curry in the first quarter, the Warriors looked to make ball movement the key in the second. Curry even got a breather.
That doesn’t mean all was solved.
Also, in a break from Drake news, look who was courtside.
First quarter: Raptors 36, Warriors 29
Someone get Stephen Curry some help. He did it all for the shorthanded Warriors in the first quarter, posting 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. But his teammates weren’t much help even as a spark late in the frame got Golden State back in it. The Warriors’ next highest scorer? Two players (Draymond Green and Alfonzo McKinnie) with three points each. Yikes.
Toronto got off to a great start, meanwhile, with all five starters scoring in the first five minutes and the team grabbing an early 10-point lead. In a balanced effort, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with nine points each, followed by eight from Marc Gasol and six from Pascal Siakam.
Klay Thompson’s absence, his first ever missed playoff game, made Warriors Coach Steve Kerr tinker. He ran out Shaun Livingston in Thompson’s place, alongside Curry, Andre Iguodala, Green and DeMarcus Cousins.
The big question: Who, among those players, can score besides Stephen Curry? Turns out Curry, with Kyle Lowry guarding him, might just do it himself. He scored the Warriors’ first five points (the rest of the team started 0 for 5) before Cousins was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit a free throw. Curry had 12 of the team’s first 14 points.
Klay Thompson (hamstring strain) was pushing hard to play Wednesday and Warriors Coach Steve Kerr announced roughly 90 minutes before tip that it would be a game-time decision. He was later listed as active on the lineup card, but later it was revealed that he would not playing in Game 3. It ended Thompson’s streak of 120 consecutive playoff games.
As for the other missing Warrior . . .
Wait, that’s not the bridge to Oakland . . .
Catch up since Game 2
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)
Full NBA Finals schedule
- Game 1; May 30: at Raptors 118, Warriors 109
- Game 2; June 2: Warriors 109, at Raptors 104
- Game 3, June 5: Raptors 123, at Warriors 109
- Game 4 at Golden State: Friday, June 7, 9 p.m. (ABC)
- Game 5 at Toronto: 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)