Thursday June 6, 2019
Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green, top, reaches over Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry during the second half of Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Steph Curry oozed championship experience as he pumped in 47 points trying single-handedly to lead his injury-hampered Golden State Warriors in their home arena. But the well-balanced Toronto Raptors couldn’t be beat.
The Raptors rollicked for a 123-109 road victory over the dynastic Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and seized a 2-1 series lead behind diverse scoring from every guy on the floor. Kawhi Leonard led the Raps with 30 points, while Kyle Lowry added 23. Danny Green contributed 18 in his best game of the playoffs – including six three-pointers.
Mar Gasol pitched in 17, Pascal Siakam 18, and Fred VanVleet 11 on a night the Raps hit 17 three-pointers.
The Warriors were missing an irreplaceable man on Wednesday. Klay Thompson was ruled out of Wednesday’s game for the back-to-back NBA champs, as he continued to nurse the hamstring he strained during Game 2 in Toronto. Thompson had lobbied hard to play, but the training staff didn’t want to risk making his injury worse. It was the first missed playoff game of the all-star shooting guard’s career, ending a streak of 120 in a row.
The depleted Warriors were also missing reserve big man Kevon Looney, who is lost for the series. Kevin Durant was still out too, although the Warriors said he’s ramping up his workouts in the hopes of a return. Shaun Livingston got the start in Thompson’s absence.
To kick off the night in Oakland, Saskatchewan country artist Tenille Arts sang O Canada before two members of Metallica did an electric-guitar-revved rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. Jay-Z and Beyoncé sat courtside.
The aged Oracle Arena is in its final days of life before the Warriors’ new state-of-the-art arena opens this fall across the Bay in San Francisco’s Mission Bay district. Wednesday, its fans were awash in bright yellow “Stay Golden” playoff T-shirts as gold spotlights swept across the crowd. One young Warriors fan held up a hand-scrawled sign that read "You The North, We The Champs”.
The Raptors roared out to a fast 36-29 lead in the first quarter with all five Raptors starters scoring. There were positive signs everywhere for Toronto. The oft-inconsistent Green hit a trio of early threes – the same guy who had gone 1-for-15 in the final four games of the Eastern Conference final against the Milwaukee Bucks. Leonard was getting to the line, Gasol was dominating with post moves, and the Raps were limiting the scoring of all Warriors not named Curry.
The Raptors led by as much as 14 points in the first half, but Golden State’s star point guard was sensational. He erupted for 17 points in the opening quarter and had 25 by half-time, while also leading his team in rebounds.
Not to be outdone, Toronto’s point guard was rolling too, popping off for an 11-point quarter, while also helping guard Curry. Lowry, the longest-tenured Raptor, had gifted each of his teammates with OVO-themed Beats headphones as they boarded their charter flight to California for Games 3 and 4. He had 15 points by the half– hot especially from deep – leading his Raps to a 60-52 lead. He’d hit five three balls before the night was through.
Memories of Toronto’s third-quarter collapse in Game 2 loomed large. Despite his efficient shooting to that point, the Raptors opened the second half with Green on the bench and VanVleet on the floor. The Raps leaned on that Lowry-VanVleet combo to help contest Curry.
Green returned for Toronto late in the quarter and quickly scored his fourth three-ball of the night – then his fifth and his sixth. Iguodala was pitching in scoring, but Curry was still shouldering so much of the load.
The Warriors wouldn’t roll over and die, though. They mounted a small run. Green rallied with some buckets for them, they got a little lift from Jonas Jerebko, and Curry kept chugging.
Toronto would not relent. Soon Toronto was emptying its bench in the closing minutes, and the gold-shirted fans headed for the exits.
Game 4 is set for Friday in Oakland, before the series veers back to Toronto for Game 5 on Monday.