Klay Thompson winced as he spoke, like the mere possibility of missing a game in the NBA Finals pained him to his core.
Adding to Golden State’s swelling list of injured players, its all-star sharpshooting guard is questionable for Game 3 against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday as the series sits tied at 1-1. He continues to nurse a left hamstring he strained in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
Thompson is crucial for Golden State as one of the team’s leading scorers and a leading defender on Kawhi Leonard. Yet playing on that hamstring too soon carries some risk.
“If there’s any pain, it will be a no-go just because of the position we’re in,” Thompson said, adding that he’ll be a game-time decision. “This could be a longer series, so there’s no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game.”
Thompson says the hamstring pain may affect him as he tries to stop on a dime or make hard cuts. He’s not the only Warrior keeping Golden State’s medical staff busy.
The Warriors confirmed that Kevin Durant won’t play in Game 3 and still isn’t practising with the team. Andre Iguodala has been playing through a lingering calf issue. Reserve forward Kevon Looney is done for the series after a fracture to the area connecting his sternum to his ribs. DeMarcus Cousins is just two games back from his lengthy layoff with a quad injury.
They’ve been so injury-hampered, Cousins made light of it by posting a photo on Instagram of himself and Iguodala being pushed through Toronto’s Pearson Airport in wheelchairs with the caption, “You good, Andre?”
If Thompson is out – or limited – perhaps the Raptors might find more use for the innovative and surprising box-and-one defensive scheme they utilized briefly late in Game 2 when Thompson was off the floor. A scheme rarely seen in the NBA, Toronto head coach Nick Nurse drew it up on the fly in a huddle to stifle hot-shooting Golden State point guard Steph Curry and force other Warriors to make plays. It was a gutsy call in the NBA Finals.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about going box-and-one; what do you guys think?’ And they were like, ‘Well, what does that look like?’ ” Nurse said. “I drew the box up and who would be where. … Kyle [Lowry] was kind of the one that said, ‘Yeah, man, that will work, let’s go.’ ”
The premise of the box-and-one was very simple: Fred VanVleet was to chase Curry around, sticking to his every move. The other Raptors formed a box, daring the other Warriors to create plays. Leonard formed the top of a box with Lowry (and Danny Green after Lowry fouled out). Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol made up the bottom corners. It’s something you might see a youth basketball team use.
“Never practised that ever. I don’t think I’ve ever run a box-and-one in my life,” Lowry said. “Nothing Nick does surprises me now on the court as a coach. That one kind of caught me off guard, but, yeah, it was innovative.”
Curry responded by calling the defence “janky.” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he hadn’t seen that since he was in ninth grade.
“Yeah, I know, everybody’s making fun of me for it, right?” Nurse said.
It worked with some effectiveness. The Warriors took – and missed – some suboptimal shots. The Raps forced some turnovers and a jump ball. Still, the Raptors lost the game on an Iguodala shot. Toronto failed to sink its own game-ending shots.
Leonard said he didn’t anticipate the box-and-one would be used a lot in the series going forward, especially if Durant eventually returns to the floor.
But Nurse’s players appreciated their coach’s creativity.
“Nick is very player-friendly. He’ll ask us this or that, and he’ll say ‘Are you guys comfortable?’ … and a lot of the times the situations that he puts us in are to be successful,” Lowry said. “We’re in the Finals for a reason, and he’s helped us get here.”