Let it Rip

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Starters Lead the Way for Raptors Against Hobbled Warriors Team

The Golden State Warriors have not lost an NBA Finals game at the Oracle since Game 7 back in 2016 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On Wednesday night, that streak came to an end when the Toronto Raptors outplayed a hobbled Warriors team, taking Game 3 by a score of 123-109. With Kevin Durant still out, Kevon Looney done for the series, and Klay Thompson ruled out just minutes prior to tip-off, the Raptors were able to overcome an onslaught from Stephen Curry.

A win’s a win.

Despite a 47-point effort from Curry, the Raptors starters and three-point shooting paced the way en route to a huge Game 3 victory. After losing a heartbreaker at home, the Raptors came out unfazed by the hostile environment in Oakland and put together their best shooting night of the series. Incredible, considering the Raptors did not have the luxury of shooting on the lucky Scotiabank Arena rims.

“We tried to up our presence on him a little bit with some double teams, but it doesn’t matter, right?” Head coach Nick Nurse said after the win. “I mean, my dad used to tell me that stats don’t matter — just the final score. So we’ll take the win and be thankful for that.”

Unlike Game 2, which the Raptors still should have realistically won, the Raptors received aggressive play from their leader.

It has been said time and time again throughout this magical playoff run, the Raptors are a different type of team whenever Kyle Lowry comes out aggressive and stays aggressive. It’s not even about the points he scored, it’s about how he pushes the tempo, sets the tone on both ends of the court, and helps establish a style of play that is contagious for the entire team. Lowry went onto have 23 points, the most he has scored in any game in these Finals, but as always, his importance to this Raptors team goes far beyond the box score numbers.

Lowry’s aggressiveness translated over to everyone.

Marc Gasol had a huge bounce back game. Finishing with 17 points, Gasol took DeMarcus Cousins out of the game early by dominating the paint and making the star big man uncomfortable. Pascal Siakam, who at times looked rather passive in Game 2, attacked the rim with a fury, putting together his second big game of the series with 18 points ono 50-percent shooting. Danny Green watched his shots fall, six three-pointers for that matter, and Fred VanVleet, well, dad strength lives on!

Of course, the overarching steady presence of Kawhi Leonard was key throughout. Still visibly hobbled as he deals with his knee issue, Leonard quietly amassed 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Leonard, who has been trapped consistently in this series, put together a complete game, showing an ability to make the right passes consistently out of the double-team and remaining aggressive glass.

While offensively, the Raptors were firing on all cylinders, amassing 123 points on 52-percent shooting and 45-percent shooting from long range, defensively, Toronto did everything it could to trap Curry and make him feel uncomfortable. Obviously, when shooters catch fire, especially shooters like Curry, it’s near impossible to slow down. That being said, while doing everything they could on Curry, the Raptors did an excellent job at running everyone else off the three point line and preventing the Warriors from ever getting into a consistent offensive flow.

“It was a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of pressure, too. If one of the main guys is not playing, they can still come out and get a win,” said Kawhi Leonard, who matched Curry shot for shot in the second half. “Steph played great tonight, but it was big. I’m happy we got it. Two wins away now, and let’s see what this momentum carries us to.”

Curry made six three-pointers on the night. The rest of the Warriors matched him with six of their own and as a team, the Warriors only shot 33-percent from deep. Obviously, the absence of Thompson was key, but that should not take away from the team effort that was the Raptors all-around game.

According to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Thompson should more than likely be back in the fold after missing Game 3 with a “mild” hamstring strain. Following the lopsided loss, Kerr had no regrets about the decision his team made related to Thompson’s playing status.

“The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out of the rest of the series,” Kerr said. “So that was the decision we made, and I feel very comfortable with it. Never would have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt.”

With a massive game coming up on Friday night, Thompson will have a couple more nights to receive treatment. Durant was seen following Game 3 with ice wrapped around his calf and with the latest reports of him not being able to yet practice with the team, it may be difficult to envision Durant being ready for Game 4.

The Raptors must be ready to be more aggressive on the glass on Friday as similar to Game 1, the Warriors received too many opportunities on the offensive board (+8). The shooters must be ready to go, the Raptors must be more focused on protecting the basketball and the level of aggressiveness must remain the same.

Before tonight’s game, Lowry wrote a simple statement on the whiteboard and on Friday, the Raptors will try to retain that very message: Let it Rip.

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