OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors are in trouble.
With a caveat.
That dire forecast is subject to change based on the availability of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, who missed Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday.
The Toronto Raptors won 123-109 and a took a 2-1 series lead, and the absences of Durant and Thompson, who was a game-time decision after sustaining a mild hamstring pull in Game 2, were glaring.
It’s one thing to beat Toronto without Durant — as the Warriors did in Game 2 — but it’s another to beat the Raptors without Durant and Thompson. It’s difficult to do.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr keeps saying it’s a long series, and the decision to sit Thompson was based on not making the injury worse and risking his availability for the rest of the series.
“I never would have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt,” Kerr said. “So you live with the decision you make. You make a wise decision, the wisest one you can, and then you live with it and move forward. So the good thing is Klay has done well the last two days. Now he has a couple more days to heal, and hopefully he’ll be out there on Friday.”
Draymond Green doesn’t care who is on the court. And he isn’t buying the idea that the Warriors “sacrificed” Game 3 so they could get a healthy Thompson back for Game 4.
“We didn’t sacrifice,” Green said. “You don’t sacrifice a Finals game to be healthy for the next one because anything can happen. But at the same time you do have to be smart. We would much rather have Klay for the rest of the series than putting him out there and losing him and then nothing. So no one sacrificed the game.”
That’s a fine attitude and expected from the hard-edged Green.
Green said, “Everybody wants to see us lose. So I’m sure people are happy they’re hurt.”
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That’s impossible to know, but this is how championship-caliber teams go down, succumbing to injuries at the end of a long season, or in Golden State’s case, the end of a long five seasons.
But the bottom line is this: Golden State doesn’t have enough without Durant and Thompson. Steph Curry’s performance was outstanding and kept the Warriors from getting blown out. But it didn’t put them in position to win.
Curry went for 47 points — the eighth-highest scoring output in Finals history — and he couldn’t singlehandedly beat a Raptors team that produced strong all-around efforts from its five starters, led by Kawhi Leonard’s 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Next man up is a fine theory, but the next man isn’t Durant or Thompson. You just don’t replace them without a drop-off in play even in this age of “next man up.”
It just wasn’t their offense Golden State missed. It was their defense, too. The Warriors struggled on both sides of the court, relying on Curry to create more than half of their offense and failing to slow down Toronto’s balanced offense.
And now the Warriors face the most difficult test in the past five seasons. They are down 2-1 in the Finals for the first time since 2015, and their attempt at a three-peat is in jeopardy.
“We just got to continue to battle and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6 and then celebrate,” Green said. “Fun times ahead.”
Those fun times hinge on the return of two All-Stars.
Golden State’s outlook changes if Thompson and perhaps Durant are back for Game 4 and the Warriors even the series. But it doesn’t guarantee anything. Toronto is very good and capable of beating Golden State no matter who is playing.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.