The Toronto Raptors capitalized on the absence of Klay Thompson as they rolled to a Game 3 road victory over the Golden State Warriors to snag a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. But the Warriors all-star is expected back for Game 4.
Toronto’s 123-point night was a showcase of well-balanced offence inside the house of the NBA’s back-to-back champs, as the Warriors thoroughly missed Thompson at both ends of the floor. The Raptors got double-digit scoring from six players, while seven men shot more than 50 per cent in the team’s highest-scoring effort since Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers. They hit a whopping 17 three-pointers on 38 attempts, and had 30 assists on 43 field goals.
“[Thompson is], right up there at the top of the best wing defenders in the league,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said on Thursday’s off day. “I mean, he’s probably underrated in that department. He really puts in some awesome defensive performances for them, especially when they really need them. So that probably helped us.”
The Warriors say they Kevin Durant will not be back for Game 4, but they do expect Thompson back, because he has responded well to treatment on the hamstring he strained during Game 2 in Toronto. Thompson lobbied hard to come back in Game 3, but the Warriors decided they didn’t want to risk making it worse and losing him for longer.
“The risk was too great, and being down 2-1 is not the end of the world,” Thompson said. “We have been in this position before, so we can rely on our experience and we’re getting guys back. But at the end of the day, I would rather miss one game than an entire series.”
Steph Curry was sensational with 47 points, trying to make up for his missing co-stars. But his fellow Splash Brother was missed in many ways. Thompson averaged 18.5 points and 2.5 assists in the first two games against the Raptors, and 21.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in the postseason. He’s No. 3 in the league in total three-pointers made in the playoffs with 53.
Defensively, Golden State struggled without the quick-footed winger known for his tenacity.
“The way that our team plays defensively and the chemistry that we have and the experience, he’s right at the forefront of that,” Curry said. “It’s a tough adjustment when guys who haven’t been in that position consistently and in these type of moments are thrown into his minutes.”
Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet combined to shoot 14-of-25 from three-point range in Game 3, as the Warriors allowed them too many open looks from deep.
“The one thing about Klay, he brings defence, he brings offence, he brings just that extra swag that they have as a team and as an individual competitor,” Lowry said. “He’s one of the toughest guys out there.”
The Raptors aren’t getting cocky about sitting two wins away from a championship. Golden State has proved its ability to overcome a variety of adversities en route to titles.
The Warriors have a 17-7 record since 2015 following a loss in the postseason – 4-1 in this year's playoffs.
“It just feels like business as usual, honestly. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, but the benefit of having been through five years of this is we have literally seen everything,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We have lost a 3-1 lead in a heartbreaking fashion. We have come back from 3-1 down. We have had to win a Game 7 on the road. We have been without Steph Curry for a series. We have been without Kevin Durant. We were without Klay last night … you can name it and we have seen it.”
Aside from the noise spikes generated after Curry’s big buckets, the Raptors largely took Golden State’s home crowd out of Game 3, getting big stops or hitting crushing threes every time the Warriors tried to stage one of their signature runs.
Curry said the team has emphasized the importance of winning the final games at long-time Oracle Arena before the place shuts down.
“Being down 2-1 gives us all the motivation we need,” Curry said. “There is a bigger story around this building, and it being the last year and what’s at stake with that … we have to come in, feed off our crowd’s energy, make the necessary adjustments, especially on the defensive end … and allow our crowd to be in it the entire game.”