Stephen Curry did his best to will his hobbled Golden State Warriors to victory on Wednesday.
But the challenge facing Golden State was too much for even the two-time MVP as the Toronto Raptors capitalized on Warriors injuries on both sides of the floor in a dominant 123-109 Game 3 win to take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals.
Curry scored a playoff career-high 47 point to go with eight rebounds and seven assists in a one-man show that was no match for the balanced attack of Toronto, which saw six players score in double figures in a potent display of firepower, inside and out.
Golden State’s hopes that Curry could carry the night were hit early with a stark reality that saw the All-Star guard go for 17 points in the first quarter — normally a sign of big things to come for Golden State.
Raptors too much for Curry’s solo act
But with the Raptors leading 36-29 after the first quarter despite Curry’s outburst, the reality for the Warriors became clear. Even a lineup dubbed as a superteam can’t compete against a Finals foe like Toronto with two of its three best players wearing street clothes.
Firepower on the bench
Kevin Durant, sitting for an eighth straight game with the calf injury he suffered in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets in the West semis, was never expected to play on Wednesday. But Golden State held out hope that Klay Thompson might play through the hamstring strain he suffered in the fourth quarter of Golden State’s Game 2 win in Toronto.
Those hopes were dashed minutes before tipoff when Golden State ruled him out. Golden State also played without forward Kevon Looney, who is not likely to return to the series after suffering a broken collarbone in Game 2.
Steph left searching for help
That left the normally potent Warriors with one established scoring option in its lineup. And for most of the night, that’s exactly how it played out with Golden State often looking like Curry and a bunch of guys.
Draymond Green gave a good effort, scoring 17 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. But his job is to fill up the box score and frustrate opponents with his defense, not act as Golden State’s No. 2 scorer.
That’s exactly where he ended up on Wednesday as Andre Iguodala was the only other Warrior to breach double figures with 11 points.
Golden State was forced to dig deep into its bench. Quinn Cook (27 minutes) and Andrew Bogut (22 minutes) both played well over their expected allotment of minutes, while Alfonzo McKinnie (18 minutes), Jonas Jerebko (10 minutes) and Jordan Bell (nine minutes) all saw significant playing time.
The five of them combined to score 26 points on 10-of-24 shooting from the field.
Cousins takes a step back
Meanwhile, the DeMarcus Cousins that helped spark Sunday’s Game 2 win was a non-factor in 19 minutes, scoring four points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. Shaun Livingston — Thompson’s replacement in the starting lineup — matched Cousins’ output with four points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Simply put, this was not a championship-caliber lineup, and it showed in a 39.6 percent shooting performance. Toronto took advantage.
Thompson’s offense was clearly missed. But it was his defensive prowess that Golden State may have needed more as the Raptors erupted from distance, hitting 17 of 38 3-pointers.
Kawhi Leonard led the way with 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists. But the Toronto superstar was one of several Raptors to take his turn playing a starring role on Wednesday.
Fred VanVleet took Danny Green’s place in the starting lineup to begin the second half, presumably to help slow Curry, who had clearly become Golden State’s only hope. VanVleet provided the spark he so often has through this Raptors playoff run with some big shots in the third en route to 11 points that included hitting 3-of-6 3-point attempts.
Another Finals outburst from Green
Danny Green took advantage when he entered the game again with what’s become a trademark Finals performance for the role player who regularly came up with big games during the San Antonio Spurs’ most recent trips to the NBA’s championship round.
Green caught fire from distance in the third and finished shooting 6 of 10 from behind the arc, where he scored all 18 of his points.
This is what Masai Ujiri had in mind
Kyle Lowry continued to exorcise the playoff demons that haunted him in so many playoff exits at the hands of LeBron James, tallying 23 points, nine assists and four rebounds. He joined the 3-point party, hitting 5 of his 9 attempts and easily made up for some questionable first-half fouls that threatened to get him in foul trouble.
Pascal Siakam (18 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Marc Gasol (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists) also shone when given the opportunity as the Raptors put on full display the formidable lineup general manager Masai Ujiri envisioned as he assembled what he hoped would be a championship roster.
So far, so good on that front.
The Raptors entered the night with a massive opportunity on the road against a neutered Finals opponent. They capitalized with a strong performance, averting what would have been the disaster of not taking advantage of the Warriors’ lineup woes.
And now they have control of the series. Game 4 will likely be a different story. Durant’s status remains a mystery. But with the prospect of going down 3-1 at home facing Golden State, there’s little chance Thompson sits again on Friday.
And as the Raptors demonstrated on Wednesday, Golden State’s going to need him.
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