Published On: Wed, Jun 5th, 2019

Warriors head into Game 3 vulnerable, yet pressure is on Raptors

“If I can just be out there even at 80 percent, I still think I can be very effective,” he said. “From the progress I’ve made these last two days, I’m very encouraged that I’ll be able to go out there. As long as nothing is torn or really injured, I’m not too fearful of it because, knock on wood, I’ve been very blessed with not very many traumatic injuries in my career. I don’t think this one is of greatest concern. It’s just the day and age we live in where little things can just grow to be big problems, but I don’t think this will be one of them.”

How would a diminished or missing Klay affect the Warriors? Well, Stephen Curry could not afford to be anything less than MVP-ish. He’d see doubles and triples thrown his way by the Raptors and that would cause him to take tougher shots than normal. In that situation, as the Warriors’ only volume scorer and shooter on the floor, Curry could feel overwhelmed and force the issue.

Cousins would be required to ratchet up his shooting and intensity on offense, but will he stay clear of foul trouble, which would put a crimp in his playing time?

Finally, the Warriors would lean more on Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook than normal. Cook made a pair of important shots in Game 2 after Thompson limped off and could be an X-factor, or at least he’d need to be for Golden State’s sake.

“Our team is very adaptable,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of versatility. What it requires is bench players being ready to step up, like they always are, and guys just playing hard and playing together. I think you have to be fearless, too, which our team is. You can’t worry about anything. You just go out there and play and compete and let it fly and whatever happens, happens.”

 

What will be the Raptors’ defensive strategy against Stephen Curry in Game 3?

And then there’s Toronto. A weakened or missing Thompson would be an opportunity they simply couldn’t afford to blow. How many times does a gift present itself in the biggest series of the season? Not often. It must be seized.

In such a situation, the Raptors would be wise to occupy Curry and dare others to produce for four quarters. If Thompson plays, they’d be best to take advantage by running him ragged through screens on defense, putting that hamstring to the test. That would be one less player with high defensive credentials for Kawhi Leonard to deal with.

Assuming that scoring will be an issue for the Warriors, the Raptors must get a bounce-back game from Pascal Siakam (who regressed from 32 points to 12) and more punch from Kyle Lowry (six baskets total for the series) to make it tough if not impossible for the Warriors to keep up.

If the Raptors have any shot at winning this title, they must win at least one game at Oracle anyway, and from a practical standpoint, Game 3 is the most inviting. They may never see the Warriors this vulnerable, this ripe for the taking again.

“I think we come into a sense of urgency, period,” said Lowry, “no matter the situation. We want to be the first to four, and every game is an urgent game. You’re in the NBA Finals, so it doesn’t matter. They still have professional basketball players down there, and they’re really talented basketball players. So you still got to be ready to go out there and play your butt off and play hard.”

The Warriors do not feel the same level of urgency because they’re not down 0-2, and the next two games are at home, and the core group is championship tested. As they demonstrated in Game 2, they don’t get rattled by tense championship games, even with Thompson and Durant off the floor.

 

What’s the biggest adjustment the Raptors must make in Game 3?

They also know, or at least feel strongly, that Thompson and Durant will suit up soon.

“If there’s pain, it will be a no-go (for Game 3) because of the position we’re in,” Thompson said. “This could be a longer series, so there’s no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game.”

The Warriors might not get much sympathy from a basketball world that perhaps feel the champs are finally getting their just due. Everyone saw them play the 2015 championship series against Cleveland without Kevin Love and all but one game without Kyrie Irving. In the 2017 Western Conference finals, Leonard, then with San Antonio, went down after lighting it up for most of Game 1. And how can anyone forget Chris Paul missing Houston’s final two games of a seven-game playoff series last season? 

Not saying those were the reasons for three championships in four years; still, all of those misfortunes suffered by others favored the Warriors.

But who’s keeping score?

“There’s a certain amount of luck involved with this, and we know that,” Kerr said. “We have been on both sides of that. Some of our opponents have suffered injuries. We have suffered injuries. It’s just part of the deal. You just keep pushing forward.”

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him  here, find his archive here  and follow him on  Twitter .

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.