Quick reminder: we have a Game 4 Watch Party at Hot Tokyo Fried Chicken (King and Peter) – tickets are $10 and that includes a beer – get your tickets and see you there!
Off to Oakland we go! The disappointment of the Game 2 loss has dissipated and now the Toronto Raptors have a very real chance to reclaim a lead in the NBA Finals. They have been the better team for 7 of the 8 quarters that have been played, which is a selective stat of course, but does point towards how well the Raptors performed outside of the dreaded third quarter on Sunday. Now, Oracle is an entirely different prospect but the Warriors do not possess the same air of invincibility of years past. Cut them and they will bleed.
Injuries suck, man. Viewers want to see the best players in the world battle it out for basketball supremacy. They are also especially frustrating for my own selfish purposes, as it extremely difficult to forecast Golden State’s expected rotation night to night. Their lineups from Game 1 to Game 2 couldn’t have been more different.
C’est la vie. The Raptors themselves are also incredibly bruised up after 20 games of grueling playoff basketball. Kawhi Leonard is clearly hobbled with a left knee injury and lacked explosiveness across the first two games, Kyle Lowry continues to rock an oven mitt on his mangled thumb, Danny Green is wrapped in ice every moment he isn’t on the court, and O.G. Anunoby’s ability to contribute is up in the air despite being cleared to play.
Looney’s definite absence leaves a 20 minute hole in Steve Kerr’s rotation. The backup centre has been the de facto sixth man across the playoffs and has certainly made himself some money this upcoming free agency period. Cousins may not be able to extend past the 28 minutes he logged in Game 2 as he looked completely gassed, and Kerr will likely spin his ‘centre roulette’ to decide who will soak up the remaining minutes. Toronto must take advantage of this centre issue.
Kerr may finally be twisted to play Draymond Green at centre more, reverting back to a knock-off version of their small-ball lineup of death. That lineup went a mediocre -3 in just under three minutes of action in Game 2 and played zero minutes in Game 1.
The Thompson injury concerns loom even larger. The dude is a Warrior (get it?!) and has battled through a host of injuries to feature in every playoff game in the team’s five year run. But hamstrings aren’t something you can grit through. If Thompson does play, his mobility should be severely limited and he will likely be forced into more of a spot-up role rather than his usual brain-melting relocation threes. This is great news for Toronto; anytime the Warriors offence becomes more stagnant it is a blessing and the Raptors can pay even greater attention to Stephen Curry.
P.S – This is all excluding the cloud of Kevin Durant’s injury as well. I’m tired of every person in the free world speculating over the timeline of Durant’s return. We will cross that bridge when we get there.
Change of pace at the Oracle
The differences between Games 1 and 2 were aplenty, but none more apparent than the Warriors ability to speed the game up in transition. Toronto’s horrific shooting did offer these breakout opportunities, but Golden State will clearly look to run given that their personnel may be forced into more small-ball looks. The Warriors also tend to play at a faster pace when back home at the Oracle and this number skyrockets even further when offered 2+ days of rest in between games.
It would behoove the Raptors to drag this game into the mud. The lingering injuries point to them being the far superior half-court team. But there is no tougher place in the NBA to control the flow of the game than at the Oracle arena, especially considering how rabid the atmosphere will be in the stadium’s last ever playoff series.
If you would like to read a more detailed breakdown of the series prior to Game 3, you can find my biggest takeaways of the Toronto homestand here. Louis Zatzman also wrote about the Raptors failure to expose DeMarcus Cousins here.
Tipoff: 9:10 EST | TV: Sportsnet ONE/ABC
Warriors are favoured by 5.5 points. O/U: 213.0
OG Anunoby (appendicitis) will dress for Game 3.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher, Eric Moreland
Andre Iguodala (left calf tightness) will play, Klay Thompson is (hamstring) questionable, and Kevin Durant (strained calf) is out for game 3. Kevon Looney (costal cartilage fracture) is out for the series.
PG: Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Draymond Green, Jonas Jerebko
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, Andrew Bogut
Heads up, Friday Game 4 is our watch party in downtown Toronto – get your tickets.