The Toronto Raptors defeated a shorthanded Golden State Warriors squad 123-109 in Oakland on Wednesday to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven NBA finals. The Raptors won behind 30 points from Kawhi Leonard and a balanced attack that saw five other players score in double digits.
The Warriors were able to cut the lead to as little as seven points at some stages, but the Raptors always had an answer as sharpshooter Danny Green made six three-pointers and Serge Ibaka blocked six shots.
The Raptors overcame a 47-point performance by Stephen Curry — a playoff career high for the Warriors point guard — but it was not enough for the two-time defending champions.
“They never make anything easy and Steph is a two-time MVP,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowery, who tallied 23 points and nine assists.
“For us, we need to just stay locked into the game plan. We can’t have any mental lapse, that’s what hurts us. We’ve just got to continue to work, play hard and stay level headed.”
The Warriors were forced to play without starting shooting guard Klay Thompson, who was a gametime scratch after he injured his hamstring in Game Two, and two-times Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined with a calf strain since May 8.
The Warriors were also without back up big man Devon Looney, who suffered a fracture in Game Two and has been ruled out for the remainder of the series.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr responded to the absences with his 10th different starting line-up of the playoffs, but the team’s defense suffered as the Raptors shot 52 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from deep.
The Warriors offense also suffered with Curry outscoring the other four starters combined.
The Raptors led by as many as 14 points in the first half before the Warriors stepped up their defense in the last six minutes of the second quarter, to go into the break trailing by just eight.
But Green got hot for the Raptors in the third quarter and the visitors were able to extend their lead to 13 heading into the fourth quarter, where a rainbow three-pointer by Fred VanVleet with 1:37 remaining put the game out of reach.
The Raptors are trying to win a first NBA title, while the Warriors, winners of three of the last four championships, are attempting to cement their legacy as one of the sport’s greatest dynasties.
Game Four is on Friday in Oakland.