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How Warriors were stunned by Raptors in Game 4 despite Thompson, Looney returns

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


If Game 3 of the NBA Finals made clear how badly the Warriors need Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney, Game 4 made clear that even with tide-fighting performances by Thompson and Looney, the Raptors’ quality of depth is far more than the back-to-back defending NBA champions are capable of handling without Kevin Durant.

A first-half lead was wasted, and was far from what it needed to be, and should have been. Even the minimum necessary scoring performance from the bench were nowhere to found while the team’s bellwether, became lost somewhere in the funeral-like atmosphere that came over Oracle Arena in the second half.

There were few, if any reporters at the Arena that feigned hiding shock at what might also prove to be a funeral for one of the NBA’s great dynasties.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. It couldn’t. Not with a healthy Klay Thompson, and certainly not with a faultless Thompson performance on both ends. And 20 minutes from a not-so-extinct Looney? No way the Warriors get swept in back-to-back games at Oracle.

No way.

Thompson’s return wasn’t like the iconic return of Willis Reed for the New York Knicks in the 1970 NBA Finals. It wasn’t a last-second morale booster that turned the tide on emotion. It was a domineering return. Thompson hounded Raptors players, often working in tandem with Draymond Green and Kevon Looney on three-man switches which frequently, confounded the Raptors’ offense which was near-faultless in Game 3… in the first half.

But the first half came and went, and while Thompson was stellar throughout, the rest of the Warriors fell apart.

The first sign of trouble was the far-from-enough 56-52 lead that the Warriors took into halftime. It was against the run of play, but right within what we’ve come to learn about the Toronto Raptors: they fight on every single possession, whether it’s on offense or defense.

“We probably played well enough in the first half to be up eight or ten, but that’s not abnormal in the NBA,” said Steve Kerr.

What was abnormal was the way the Warriors were scorched in the third quarter. A pair of Kawhi Leonard 3-pointers to begin the quarter effectively removed the concept of a lead from the Warriors’ lexicon. The quarter which has brought Golden State a comical amount of riches in the past half-decade was flipped against them. A bludgeoning in the form of 27 third-quarter Raptors points was met with 11 from Golden State.

The once-energetic, deafening crowd of home supporters was drowned out by Raptors fans in the nosebleeds, cheering every one of Kawhi Leonard’s 36, Serge Ibaka’s 20, and Pascal Siakam’s 19 points in unison.

It didn’t matter that Thompson poured in an efficient 28 points (11-of-18, 6-of-10 from 3-pt); or that Looney (playing with a broken collarbone as far as we know) came back to life like Frankenstein’s monster, finishing with 11 points (5-of-8), six rebounds and an assist.

None of that mattered because the Warriors couldn’t get a hint of assistance from their bench players or Andre Iguodala on the offensive end. Iguodala had 3 points (1-of-6, 0-of-3 from 3-pt), Quinn Cook had 0 points (0-of-5, 0-of-3 from 3-pt) and Alfonzo McKinnie had two points (1-of-4, 0-of-1 from 3-pt.). DeMarcus Cousins also put on a hapless performance, but at least managed to score 6 points on 3-of-6 shooting (0-of-1 from the line).

That’s about the only positive thing to say about Cousins’ night.

Cousins looked like a player whose body is still recovering from two traumatic leg injuries (a torn left Achilles and a torn left quad) on a 7-foot, 300-pound frame, and which has no business trying to keep up with what his mind is telling it to do. It’s difficult to remember a pass he threw that wasn’t, at the very least, challenged in the passing lane – he finished with 4 turnovers, 1 assist, and 4 rebounds in his near 15 minutes of play, which were rightly cut off in the third quarter. He was sluggish, outworked and completely out of his element, none of which should be a surprise or a knock on a player who has no business being healthy right now.

All that lack of anything from the bench and a couple starters came while Leonard played like the best player on the planet, Siakam was great, and Ibaka put in a dagger-like 20-point performance.

As Draymond Green said, “It seems like every game, it’s somebody else.”

The Warriors do not have that capability. The Raptors have eight guys on the roster who can reasonably score 10-plus points every game, three of whom (Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Siakam) who can score 20 points on any given night. The Warriors have two active 20-point-plus scorers, and two, maybe three 10-plus point players in Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, and if you’re being generous, DeMarcus Cousins.

The only recipe for success against this Raptors team, flush with depth, is a perfect performance from Thompson and Curry, a dominant showing from Draymond Green, and around-the-board chip ins from the bench, and/or one standout.

The bench provided 18 points tonight, 16 of which came from Looney and Shaun Livingston, who played well. The rest of the bench was abysmal on the offensive end, while Iguodala and Cousins struggled, and Curry was as far from perfect as he’s been all series.

And the turnovers. Were. Rampant.

Only Curry and Thompson made threes for the Warriors tonight, and Curry was 2-for-9 from deep, and 9-of-22 from the field. He turned the ball over three times with six assists, while Cousins turned it over four times (again, in less than 15 minutes), Green turned it over five times (with 12 assists), Iguodala twice, Looney once, Livingston once and Bogut once. Thompson, who had three assists, had no turnovers and committed just three personal fouls.

This came on the heels of near-faultless shooting nights from Kyle Lowry (23 points, 8-of-16, 5-of-9 from 3-pt) and Danny Green (18 points, 6-of-10 from 3-pt) who were horrible on the offensive end tonight (Lowry had 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, 0-of-4 from 3-pt, Green had 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting, 1-of-7 from 3-pt). Their Game 3 bullseyes became clanks off the dart board wall in Game 4, and the Warriors weren’t remotely close to winning.

Yet, all isn’t lost, at least according to the Warriors.

They’ve seen 3-1 deficits before – and have been on both ends of a comeback (2016, when they won after trailing 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 2016 in the NBA Finals, when they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers).

Draymond Green recalled that Thunder series after Game 4.

“I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 down before, so why not make our own history,” Green said.

Curry recalled both sides of the coin.

“It’s not over. It’s not a good feeling right now, obviously, but like you said, we have been on both sides of it.”

 

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