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NBA Finals Game Three: Raptors must strike back as injuries mount for Golden State

Toronto Raptors @ Golden State Warriors
Game 3 – Thursday June 6, 02:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event, Arena

Warriors third quarter show

So near and yet so far.

Regret has to be the overwhelming vibe around Toronto as they head west for game three. Backed by the rousing cheers of approximately 19,983 roaring Canadians (who knew they could get so hyped?), the Raptors rolled to a game one victory and they didn’t even have to rely on Kawhi Leonard.

He’s carried them in previous rounds when not much else was happening but posted a modest (by his standards) 23 points, well below his average for the postseason, and they still won by nine. That left room to improve in game two and then to land in the Bay Area in control of hard-earned home advantage in the seven-game series.

And half-way through game two, it was looking pretty good. Sure, Klay Thompson had found his range in the opening two periods, and their lead was down to five having lingered in double-digits for much of the second quarter, but the Raptors looked as confident and controlled as in game one, while GSW struggled to overcome the absence of Kevin Durant and other, less high-profile ailments.

And then the Warriors pulled out one of those dominant third quarters that have become their signature. They blitzed Toronto at both ends of the floor to open the second half. With 6.20 left in the third, the Raptors were still on 59 points, their score at the interval. Golden State had scored 18 since the break. They’d taken the lead and would not give it up as they ran out 109-104 winners to tie the series at 1-1.

Injuries mounting

Apart from the obvious disappointment of losing a home game that was within their grasp, Nick Nurse’s team will know that they’ve given one of the greatest team’s in league history a break by not capitalising on Kevin Durant continuing unavailability.

Durant is not expected back for this game, and may not even appear in game four, though that timeline could have changed were his side to be 2-0 down and in danger of losing their shot at a three-peat. Back in their own building, their need to get him on-court is eased by having that win on the board. Given how doubts about their health multiplied through game two it’s just as well that they held off a late Raptors rally to take the win.

Klay Thompson posted his 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting before leaving the game in the final quarter with an apparent hamstring injury and not returning. He says he expects to play tonight, but there’s no guarantee he does, or how hard he can push it if he suits up.

Andre Iguodala had to get treatment during the game due to his continuing problems. Kevon Looney injured his collarbone and won’t return for the series. At least Boogie Cousins showed signs of life as he works his way back from injury, because the Warriors need all the bodies they can find at this stage.

Toronto shooting off-target

Those problems should give Toronto hope. This was a game they’ll feel they should’ve won. Where shots dropped for them in game one, they rattled out in two.

Pascal Siakam couldn’t follow up his 32-point showing with another leaderly contribution as he scored just 12 with the Warriors pressing him more. Fred VanVleet got 17 from the bench, but his 2-of-8 shooting from three-point range didn’t match his more recent form. Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry also failed to deliver from the deep.

In sum, no one stepped up to support Kawhi’s 34-point effort. 16 of those came from the free-throw line as the Warriors clamped down on the Raptors leader. In total, they shot under 30% from deep and under 38% from the field, where they’d been over 40 and 50 in both categories in game one. That was the decisive factor in both games.

If there is a silver lining to be taken from the loss, it’s that if they can make a few more shots from outside the arc, that could swing the series back in their favour.

Raptors must exploit Warrior woes

There’s no doubt Toronto have the players to win on the road. Game two’s loss was their first to the Warriors of the season. They won both regular-season meetings, including the road game without Kawhi Leonard in their line-up.

Then you look at the mounting health troubles for the title-holders. Durant, Thompson, Iguodala, Cousins, these aren’t role-players. Even Looney’s been contributing meaningful minutes with Cousins out, now he’s gone.

Thompson is shaping to play but it’s not confirmed, and even if he does, how good will he be? The Warriors are 0-4 against the spread in the last four games he’s missed, and the under has come in each time too.

Durant definitely won’t play. While the Warriors have strong trends in their favour – they’re 1-13 straight up and 3-11 against the number in the last 14 at home versus Toronto – the aches and pains don’t bode well.

At this remove, and with these issues, it’s hard to be too keen on the Warriors -5 points – the line has already moved in from 6. The Raptors with the points is my preference. They need to win one of these two games to stand a chance in the series, and this game looks like the pivotal game in the series. If they can’t win with the Warriors in such bad shape, when can they?

The under on the 213 line for the total also appeals as the Raptors on the road generally score lower than at home in the playoffs and that should bring this in, plus, if Curry is the Warriors sole fit scorer, he can’t do everything.

What he will need to do is distribute if Thompson is hampered as Toronto will be able to key in on him as the Warriors clear top threat. Curry’s assists line is set at 5.5, and the over is worth a look given the circumstances at 10/11.

Source: US Sports