9:00 PM EST, ABC – Line: Warriors -6, Over/Under: 213
As if we didn’t the 2019 NBA Finals to get any more interesting, they have as the Golden State Warriors look to turn the tables on the Toronto Raptors in Game Three from ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. Despite being a considerable underdog in these Finals, you’d be excused for believing that the Raptors (58-24, 2nd in Eastern Conference) have been in control in the early stages of this Series with the two-time reigning NBA Champions. After all, not only did Toronto own home court, but were also the much healthier team, which when considered alongside their impressive 118-109 victory in Game One, appeared to give them much more than a puncher’s chance of putting Golden State in an unenviable 2-0 hole. That was certainly the outlook that Nick Nurse’s outfit took in the early stages of Game Two, where they looked to overwhelm the visiting Warriors early in the First Half, establishing a lead that swelled into double-digits on a few occasions. However, despite the raucous crowd and the early offensive explosion, the hosts only led 59-54 heading into Halftime. And that, ladies and gentleman, is where things took a sharp turn… If this was boxing, the bonafide haymaker that the Dubs dealt to the home side would’ve been considered a knockout, for the Champs exploded on their way towards outscoring Toronto 34-21 in the Third Quarter, largely on the strength of a virtuoso 18-0 run that absolutely stunned the crowd at Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors spent the rest of the affair maddeningly trying to erase the deficit, and despite coming close, ultimately fell in defeat 104-109. As strongly as they started, the numbers afterward were fairly disappointing, as the hosts shot a dismal 37.2% from the field, including 28.9% from beyond the arc, while dishing out barely more Assists (17) than Turnovers committed (15). With that said, the most disappointing part of the entire contest must have been their collective failure to capitalize on what in hindsight looked like a golden opportunity. With a pair of key figures in their Rotation succumbing to injury, and Nurse employing an unconventional Box-and-One Defense that utterly frustrated the visiting side down the stretch, the hosts simply couldn’t knock down the open shots on the other end of the floor needed to get over the proverbial hump. Toronto shot just 1-of-8 from the field over the final four minutes of action, with the majority of their production coming via the Charity Stripe. Kawhi Leonard (26.6 PTS, 49.6% FG, 37.1% 3FG, 7.3 REB, 3.3 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.4 BLK, 25.8 PER), who has played at an MVP level throughout this Postseason, led the way with Thirty-Four Points on 8-of-20 shooting from the floor (40.0%), including 2-of-9 from downtown (22.2%), while netting all Sixteen of his Free-Throw Attempts, along with Fourteen Rebounds, Three Assists, a Steal, and a Block. Pascal Siakam (16.9 PTS, 54.9% FG, 36.9% 3FG, 6.9 REB, 3.1 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.7 BLK, 18.7 PER), who impressed with Thirty-Two Points on 14-of-17 shooting (82.4%), came back down to Earth on Sunday, scoring just Twelve Points on a 5-of-18 display (27.8%). Veteran Point Guard, Kyle Lowry (14.2 PTS, 41.1% FG, 34.7% 3FG, 4.8 REB, 8.7 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.5 BLK, 16.5 PER), fouled out midway through the Fourth Quarter after struggling on 4-of-11 shooting himself (36.4%). Though it wasn’t enough, the Raptors held an immense advantage in terms of Second-Chance Points, outscoring the Warriors 23-0, with much of that advantage afforded from a whopping Fifteen Offensive Rebounds, which is certainly worth watching in tonight’s contest. Fred VanVleet (11.0 PTS, 41.0% FG, 37.8% 3FG, 2.6 REB, 4.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 13.7 PER) also provided quite the spark off the Bench, scoring Seventeen Points, Four Rebounds, Two Assists, and Three Steals, all the while relentlessly chasing Steph Curry (more on him in a bit) throughout the affair.
Meanwhile, resiliency is a common quality of a champion, and throughout this Playoff Run, the Warriors (57-25, 1st in Western Conference) are proving to have that in spades. After surviving the Houston Rockets despite the premature exit of Kevin Durant (26.0 PTS, 52.1% FG, 35.3% 3FG, 6.4 REB, 5.9 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.1 BLK, 24.2 PER) to a calf strain, and sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers without both he and All-Star Center DeMarcus Cousins (16.3 PTS, 48.0% FG, 27.4% 3FG, 8.2 REB, 3.6 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.5 BLK, 21.4 PER) in the Rotation, and most recently looking rusty in a 109-118 defeat in Game One, Golden State continues to remind us all as to why they’ve won three out of the past four NBA Titles, and remain the betting favorite to hoist a fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy. Game Two’s 109-105 victory was vintage Dubs, who without Durant, and with the likes of both Klay Thompson (21.5 PTS, 46.7% FG, 40.2% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 2.4 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.6 BLK, 16.6 PER) and Kevon Looney (6.3 PTS, 62.5% FG, 5.2 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.7 BLK, 17.3 PER) heading to the Lockerroom early due to various injuries, managed to get the better of their opponent yet again, and have taken control of this Series. Things started out roughly for Steve Kerr’s charges, who were forced to weather an early storm from the Raptors, missing all but Eight of their first Twenty-Eight Field Goal Attempts, trailing by as many Eleven Points in the First Half. However, as they oftentimes do, the Dubs gradually fought their way back into the contest, cutting the lead to just five heading into Halftime. From there, the visitors put their collective foot on the gas, erupting in the early stages of the Third Quarter via a startling 18-0 outburst that seemingly broke the spirit of their opponent, and never relinquished the lead. There was plenty to unpack in this one, folks. As we mentioned before, the already shorthanded Warriors lost a few more of their number, with Thompson suffering a strained Hamstring after scoring Twenty-Five Points 10-of-17 shooting (58.8%), including 4-of-6 from three (66.7%), while Looney, who has been fantastic in place of the injured Cousins throughout these Playoffs, broke his collarbone and missed the entirety of the Second Half. With the former already being pronounced as out for tonight’s tilt and the latter effectively out of action for the rest of the Series, what remains of this team’s depth figures to be greatly tested moving forward. As for Durant, who hasn’t played since Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals, Kerr has already proclaimed the former MVP and Scoring Champion out for Game Three as well, though he’s much closer to returning to action. However, the aforementioned Cousins was back on the court, and after a poor performance in Game One, looked absolutely essential on Sunday, factoring into things on both ends of the floor with Eleven Points, Ten Rebounds, Six Assists, and a pair of Blocks. His presence will only become more important as this Series continues, particularly with Looney lost to injury. And then there’s Steph Curry (27.3 PTS, 47.2% FG, 43.7% 3FG, 5.3 REB, 5.2 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.4 BLK, 24.4 PER), who overcame a slow start, missing his first six attempts from the field, though nonetheless finished with Twenty-Three Points, Three Rebounds, Four Assists, and Three Steals. Draymond Green (7.4 PTS, 44.5% FG, 28.5% 3FG, 7.3 REB, 6.9 AST, 1.4 STL, 1.1 BLK, 12.9 PER), who after being heavily criticized by Raptors Fans (I.E. Drake) at the conclusion of Game One, nearly authored his fourth consecutive Triple-Double, logging Seventeen Points, Ten Rebounds, and Nine Assists, while Andre Iguodala (5.7 PTS, 50.0% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 3.7 REB, 3.2 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.8 BLK, 13.1 PER) stepped up and knocked down a crucial Three late in the final stanza with Toronto’s defense fixated on stopping the aforementioned Curry.