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Warriors Raptors Finals Game 4 preview: Klay Thompson back, Durant still out.

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Kevin Durant officially ruled out, putting Golden State’s backs against the wall (again)

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors

The good news is that Klay Thompson is officially coming back for a pivotal game four. But as Kevin Durant gets ruled out for at least one more game, the bad news is that the Warriors are going to need Klay, and all the help they can get in order to avoid being down 1-3 in the Finals when the series swings back to Toronto after tonight.

According to my rudimentary internet searching the winner of Game 3 in a 1-1 Finals goes on to win the series 82% of the time. These Warriors aren’t normal, and it would seem that the extenuating circumstances are partly to blame here. Still, this upcoming game four is as close as a team can get to an elimination game without actually being in a literal elimination game.

While game three was close for most of the night, it was clear by the 3rd quarter that what’s left of the lineup probably can’t beat the Raptors. Will just Thompson returning be enough?

Thompson returns, Durant isn’t even scrimmaging yet, and a small Kevon Looney sized window of hope appears

It feels a little silly devoting space to this, but on the off chance you haven’t been as hung up on trying to get constant updates on everything like me, here’s what happened yesterday.

Klay Thompson is formally back. After missing a game with a tight hamstring, a move that has been correctly called a high stakes gamble, he’ll be a welcome addition to a roster that was forced to play old Andrew Bogut 22 minutes, and undersized Quinn Cook for 27 minutes.

No Durant just yet, and time’s running out

Though rumors were that Durant was poised for a game four return, the team officially ruled that out on Thursday, Formally not available, and not even returned to scrimmages yet does not bode well for his return on game five either (Monday). As they did with sitting Thompson out, the team is navigating a tight passage here. They said they were holding him out in anticipation of a long series, but if the remainder of the team can’t stretch it out long enough, there’s no way they’ll put a player on the court before their body is ready.

Remember, the difference between a muscle strain, and a muscle tear is largely pedantic, and the terms can be used somewhat interchangeably. When the Warriors added Durant, one of the myriad reasons for why it made sense was so the team could conceivably survive an injury to a key player in the playoffs and still come out as the Champs. This game will put that theory to test.

Could Kevon Looney re-appear?

Bottom line: maybe. After being diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture in his chest cartilage, the team thought he was done for the season. But perhaps the cruel basketball gods have begun to feel a shred of pity?

Looney wouldn’t probably return for tonight’s game, but keep an eye on this development as we’ll likely learn more ahead of the game tonight.

Ok, boo hoo. Let’s talk about who is here now

That’s enough wallowing. The Warriors, as many national observers are more than happy to point out still have a highly decorated cast of veterans at their disposal.

With Thompson’s return, Golden State can go back to a respectable starting lineup with Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green, and Cousins. That’s an extremely solid championship starting five.

Curry was excellent in game three, but fell short. I can’t imagine how it feels putting 47 points and still losing by double digits. He’s been good all Finals, and though it’s hard to imagine him outperforming his game three showing, we are witnessing a battle for the ages:

Klay Thompson’s return is equally important on both ends. The Raptors hit almost 45% of their threes, and Danny Green in particular killed us with six three pointers. Thompson was reportedly extremely close to playing in game 3, so I think we can expect him back at something near full strength (thankfully) - and the Warriors will need it.

Here’s Shane Young discussing the defensive issues that the Warriors had with the Raptors’ wings in game 3. While Thompson’s offense was sorely missed, these defenses lapses are another way Golden State needs him - look at the number of wide open threes:

Out of those 38 attempts from deep, nearly half of them were wide-open:

Distance between Raptors shooter and Warriors defender

2–4 feet of space: 4/8 (50.0%)

4–6 feet of space: 5/11 (45.5%)

6+ feet of space: 8/18 (44.4%)

Without Thompson on the wing, the defensive battle for Golden State was always going to be an uphill one. He is their primary matchup against Lowry for most of the game, until it gets to crunch time when he’s usually shifted to Leonard.

Hopefully Thompson’s return lifts some of the other players too. DeMarcus Cousins was severely outplayed by Marc Gasol. Cousins scored just four points on seven shots and got ran over by Gasol 1(7 points and seven rebounds). This is a tough challenge for Cousins, but if you want to become a champion, you are generally going to have to play better than the guy opposite you wearing a different uniform.

As always in the Finals, we are watching legacy defining moments unfold in real time.

Prediction

The Warriors must win this game. Keep your heads up and hearts strong, Dub Nation! Warriors 109 - Raptors 98.