The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors faced off on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena, each team looking to gain the upper hand in the 2019 NBA Finals after splitting the first two games in Toronto. The Warriors would be shorthanded for this game as they were without not only Kevin Durant (missing his eight-consecutive game) but also Kevon Looney (out for the rest of the Finals) and Klay Thompson (a game-time scratch due to a sore hamstring). Missing three important players meant this game was going to be a real struggle for the Warriors. Though they got a transcendent performance from their two-time MVP and kept things close for much of the game, that wasn’t enough as the Warriors lost to the Raptors, 123-109.
Dubs defense goes missing
More so than his points and what his scoring could do to free up Stephen Curry, the Warriors most profoundly missed Thompson’s defense on Wednesday night. After containing the Raptors in Game 2, the Warriors did not do as good a job defensively in Game 3. The Raptors scored 123 points, the most points a Warriors opponent has scored since the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs, while shooting 52.4% from the field including going 44.7% from three-point range. The Raptors made five more three-pointers in Game 3 than the Warriors did, resulting 15 more points from long distance in a game that they won by 14. It’s safe to say three-point shooting was a major component of this Raptors win.
Leading the way for the Raptors was Kawhi Leonard, who scored a team-high 30 points in the win including this three-pointer that pushed the Raptors’ lead back to double digits after the Warriors cut it to just nine points.
To go along with Leonard’s 30 points, Pascal Siakam scored 18 points while going 8/16 from the field on Wednesday night, looking much more like the player we saw in Game 1. But perhaps the most important contributions for the Raptors were the players in their starting backcourt—Danny Green and Kyle Lowry.
Green scored 18 points in Game 3, all of which came from the three-point shot (he went 6/10 from long distance). One of those makes from long distance came at the end of the third quarter that gave the Raptors a sixteen-point advantage.
Lowry also did damage from three-point range, going 5/9 from beyond the arc, on his way to a 23-point, 9-assist performance. After underperforming during the first two games of the 2019 NBA Finals, Lowry played great on Wednesday night. Both Lowry and Green seized the opportunity that came with Thompson, an All-NBA defender, being out of the lineup. Instead matching up against the more defensively limited Quinn Cook and Shaun Livingston, the Raptors guards were able to find more freedom on offense and that led to their team earning a win.
Curry carries the load
The only reason this game did not turn into a complete blowout and the Warriors were able to stay within striking distance was Curry. Curry was quite literally the Warriors only offensive weapon on Wednesday night, the only player who could score with any kind of regularity.
Curry scored a playoff career-high 47 points in the loss, trying his best to put the team on his back and drag them to a win. Curry went 6/14 from long distance against the Raptors, which included this three-pointer midway through the third quarter.
Curry accounted for nearly half (43%) of his team’s points in Game 3, all while facing constant double teams from the Raptors. The Raptors’ entire defensive strategy was to throw as many players at Curry as possible and yet he still scored a playoff career-high. But outside of Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green, no Warriors player scored 10+ points in the Game 3 loss.
Curry also finished Game 3 with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. That he could compile seven assists was pretty impressive given how dreadful the Warriors’ offense was for the entire game (they shot 39.6% from the field in the loss). Curry picked up one of those assists on this pass that led to an Andrew Bogut layup.
After the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had words of praise for his point guard. Kerr said, “Steph was incredible. The stuff he does is, he does things that honestly I don’t think anybody has ever done before. The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it and the combination of his ball handling and shooting skills, it’s incredible to watch.”
Though he put forth a valiant and inspired effort, Curry couldn’t win this game, meaning those playoff career-high points came in a loss.
Sloppy play from Green and Cousins causes problems
While the Warriors poor shooting and anemic offense led to a Game 3 defeat, they also committed some self-inflicted errors that cost them the game. The Warriors finished Wednesday night’s loss with 15 turnovers, resulting in 10 points for the Raptors with Green turning the ball over four times.
Though his defense was stellar yet again as he frequently took on the challenge of defending the Raptors’ best players, Green’s judgment on offense left something to be desired. Too often, Green looked to push the tempo without any real plan of attack, usually culminating with him taking a difficult shot or forcing a pass that led to a turnover. Throughout Game 3, it felt less like Green was going quickly but rather that he was in a hurry, something that hindered an already scuffling Warriors’ offense.
The other player who was prone to mistakes was DeMarcus Cousins. After his scoring and passing were so vital to the Game 2 win, Cousins regressed in Game 3. The Warriors’ big man scored just four points in the loss, going 1/7 from the field while committing three turnovers. To keep him on the court, the Warriors need Cousins to give them something on offense to make up for his defense. In Game 3, he did not give them anything offensively and that, while also struggling to defend Marc Gasol, made him a liability. The Warriors needed someone to be a secondary offensive threat to go along with Curry. The favorites to fill that role were either Green or Cousins but neither was up to the task.
After the game, however, Green displayed the confidence that comes along with winning three of the past four NBA championships. In his postgame press conference, Green said “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. Fun times ahead.”
The Warriors will get a chance to even things up on Friday at Oracle Arena with Thompson (likely) and Durant (hopefully) returning to the court.