OAKLAND, Calif. — No Klay Thompson, no Kevin Durant, no Kevon Looney, and no one is going to feel sorry for the Golden State Warriors, especially the Toronto Raptors who are trying to win their first championship in franchise history.
So with Golden State missing two All-Stars and an important reserve, the Raptors took advantage, defeating the Warriors 123-109 in Game 3 on Wednesday and grabbing a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals.
The Raptors received a complete performance from its starting five, all of whom reached double figures in scoring, led by Kawhi Leonard’s quietly stellar performance: 30 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.
Kyle Lowry had his best game of the series with 23 points and nine assists, and Danny Green’s 3-point shooting was impressive: 6-for-10 for 18 points. Pascal Siakam had 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and Marc Gasol added 17 points six rebounds and four assists.
The Warriors trailed by as many 17, including 115-105 with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter. Even shorthanded, Steph Curry can generate points in a hurry. But Fred VanVleet’s 3-pointer as the shot clock expired gave Toronto a 118-105 lead with 1:37 remaining.
Game 4 is Friday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), and the Warriors are in a precarious situation. They can’t afford to lose the next game and head to Toronto with the Raptors in position to close out the series.
The Warriors are down 2-1 in the Finals for the first time since 2015 — when they won three consecutive games to defeat Cleveland. But this is different. The Warriors don’t have home-court advantage, and like those Cavs without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, they are beat up.
Friday’s game is huge, and so much of Golden State’s success depends on the return of Thompson (mild hamstring pull) and Durant (strained calf).
Before Wednesday’s game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thompson, who watched the game from the bench, wanted to play. But the Warriors training staff wouldn’t let him if they felt he could do more damage and put his availability for the rest of the series in question. Durant is getting closer to playing, and Game 4 remains a possibility.
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While the Warriors won Game 2 without Durant and without Thompson for the final 7:59 of the fourth quarter, Thompson’s entire absence in Game 3 had a ripple effect offensively and defensively.
The Warriors missed his scoring, leaving Curry to carry much of the offense. He had 25 of his game-high 47 points in the first half when the Warriors shot 40%, but just 33.3% from Warriors not named Curry.
Thompson is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and without him the Raptors were able to find more 3-point shooting space. It also had an impact on Golden State’s interior defense which gave up easy points in the paint.
Golden State simply didn’t have the goods offensively or defensively with so many players missing.
Trailing for a majority of the game, the Warriors just didn’t have the firepower to make one of their trademark runs and get back in the game.
Toronto shot 52.4% from the field, including 44.7% (17-for-38) on 3s.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was confident his team could go on the road and win at Oracle Arena. Now, he’s going to get greedy and look to take another one on the road before heading back to Toronto for Game 5.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.