Nigerian-born basketball star, Andre Iguodala again braved fitness issues to put up his best Game 3 of the NBA Finals, but his efforts fell short in his side’s fall at home against Toronto Raptors, who have Masai Ujiri as their history seeking president.
Iguodala was the only other Warriors’ player to breach double figures with 11 points, but he was way behind top star, Stephen Curry, who did his best to rally the injury riddle side unsuccessfully on Wednesday.
The challenge was too much for even the two-time MVP, as The Raptors capitalized on Warriors’ injuries on both sides of the floor in a dominant 123-109 Game 3 victory and take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals.
Curry scored a playoff career-high 47 point to go with eight rebounds and seven assists in a one-man show that was no match for the balanced attack of Toronto, which saw six players score in double figures in a potent display of firepower, inside and out.
Golden State’s hopes that Curry could carry the night were hit early with a stark reality that saw the All-Star guard go for 17 points in the first quarter — normally a sign of big things to come for The Warriors.
With The Raptors leading 36-29 after the first quarter despite Curry’s outburst, the reality for the Warriors became clear. Even a lineup dubbed as a superteam can’t compete against a Finals foe like Toronto with two of its three best players wearing street clothes.
Kevin Durant, sitting for an eighth straight game with the calf injury he suffered in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets in the West semis, was never expected to play on Wednesday.
However, Golden State held out hope that Klay Thompson might play through the hamstring strain he suffered in the fourth quarter of Golden State’s Game 2 win in Toronto.
Those hopes were dashed minutes before tipoff when Golden State ruled him out. Golden State also played without forward Kevon Looney, who is not likely to return to the series after suffering a broken collarbone in Game 2.
That left the normally potent Warriors with one established scoring option in its lineup. And for most of the night, that’s exactly how it played out with Golden State often looking like Curry and a bunch of guys.
Draymond Green gave a good effort, scoring 17 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. But his job is to fill up the box score and frustrate opponents with his defense, not act as Golden State’s No. 2 scorer.
Golden State was forced to dig deep into its bench. Quinn Cook (27 minutes) and Andrew Bogut (22 minutes) both played well over their expected allotment of minutes, while Alfonzo McKinnie (18 minutes), Jonas Jerebko (10 minutes) and Jordan Bell (nine minutes) all saw significant playing time.
However, DeMarcus Cousins that helped spark Sunday’s Game 2 win was a non-factor in 19 minutes, scoring four points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. Shaun Livingston — Thompson’s replacement in the starting lineup — matched Cousins’ output with four points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Simply put, this was not a championship-caliber lineup, and it showed in a 39.6 percent shooting performance. Toronto took advantage.
Thompson’s offense was clearly missed. But it was his defensive prowess that Golden State may have needed more as the Raptors erupted from distance, hitting 17 of 38 3-pointers.
Kawhi Leonard led the way with 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists. But the Toronto superstar was one of several Raptors to take his turn playing a starring role on Wednesday.
The Raptors entered the night with a massive opportunity on the road against a neutered Finals opponent. They capitalized with a strong performance, averting what would have been the disaster of not taking advantage of the Warriors’ lineup woes.
Now they have control of the series. Game 4 will likely be a different story but, with the prospect of going down 3-1 at home now brazenly facing Golden State, there is little chance of Thompson and Durant starring on Friday.