Golden State Warriors, NBA Playoffs, Toronto Raptors

NBA Finals: Kawhi and the Raptors push the Warriors to the brink in Game 4

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The Warriors had Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney back in the lineup but the Raptors didn’t miss a beat. Toronto’s 13-point Game 4 win pushes Golden State to the brink of elimination.

The Raptors won Game 3, the game they were supposed to win. They were on the road but the Warriors were without Kevon Looney, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Looney and Thompson were both back on the floor for Game 4 and the Raptors won the game they weren’t supposed to win.

Toronto’s 105-92 win in Game 4 was driven by Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance but scaffolded by 19 huge points from Pascal Siakam, a surprising 20 from Serge Ibaka and several huge assists from Kyle Lowry down the stretch. Along the way, they survived an incredibly rough 17-point first quarter and an inadvertent elbow to the face of Fred VanVleet that left him bloodied in the paint, short a tooth.

The questions of whether Kevin Durant will be able to get back on the floor remains. But the Raptors have three chances, including two home games, to get one more win. Even if Durant can return, it may be too little, too late.

Takeaways

Stephen Curry looked gassed. He still managed 27 points, thanks to 7 made free throws, but he was just 2-of-9 on 3-pointers and never seemed able to create space or the kind of supernatural energy he needs to fuel his epic shooting runs. Sitting Klay Thompson for Game 3 to get a few more days of healing for his hamstring worked for him but it may have exhausted Curry. Playing without Durant or Thompson in Game 3, Curry was on the floor for 43 minutes and took 31 shots in a loss. He was everything for them in that game and it still wound up as a double-digit loss. With more help available they needed a similar performance in Game 4 but he wasn’t able to pull it off.

Kawhi Leonard. With the Raptors offense struggling in the first quarter, Leonard came out and scored 14 of his team’s 17 points. He finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds. He shot 50 percent from the field and didn’t miss a free throw. He added 4 steals and a block. He didn’t turn the ball over once. He has been absolutely incredible for Toronto in this postseason, from start to finish. It’s been a legacy-defining performance, polishing off any grit left on his reputation from how things ended in San Antonio.

Next: The Warriors are saying goodbye to Oracle Arena

What do the Warriors do next? Short of Kevin Durant returning, I’m not really sure what else there is for Golden State to do to change the dynamic. In a competitive first half, they were -4 in the 14 minutes DeMarcus Cousins was on the floor. He didn’t play in the second half. Instead, the Warriors went with Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney — who wasn’t even supposed to play again in the series but gutted through the pain of a broken joint at his collarbone. Those are the Warriors’ best interior defenders and they still gave up 63 points in the second. Draymond Green missed a triple-double by one rebound and Klay Thompson was 6-of-10 on 3-pointers. Even if Curry had hit a few more 3s it still might not have been enough. The Warriors have no more margin for error and, short of Durant returning in elite form, there is no obvious way back to the kind of dominance it will take to win three consecutive games, with two of them on the road.

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