Live by the 3, die by the 3. That is the saying.
Wednesday night the 3 was like those Sour Patch Kids for the Warriors. First they were sour — leading Golden State to blow a 14-point lead for the second game in a row.
Then they were sweet — with Kevin Durant drilling a shot eerily reminiscent of the Finals shot over LeBron James to tie the game at 112. It was immediately followed by a dagger from Stephen Curry to lift the Warriors over the pesky Toronto Raptors 117-112.
But Durant was quick to quiet any comparison to his iconic Finals moment:
“Nah, don’t go there. It’s a new year. It felt good leaving my hands, Serge (Ibaka) already knew, he was behind the 3-point line and I saw some space.”
Durant and Curry finished with 29 and 30 points, respectively, and were joined in double figures by Klay Thompson (22) and Draymond Green (15). The quartet carried a heavy scoring burden for the Warriors, posting 96 out of Golden State’s 117 total points.
And they needed all of them, as a bevy of sloppy turnovers and getting beasted on the boards let Toronto creep right back in the game after the Warriors looked to be in control late. But the reigning champs went on an unlikely 10-0 run over the last 90 seconds of the game to put the win away.
Steve Kerr was visibly annoyed at his teams lack of urgency on the glass:
“I thought we were in great shape early in the third, we made a couple 3’s and we were up 14. And then we just decided to not try on the glass. I mean literally. That’s effort, that’s focus, concentration and that changed the whole game…So either we don’t know or we don’t care how to box out, so we are going to have to figure out which one it is.”
Offensive performance was another story.
Green found his rhythm, shooting-wise. He entered the game just 10-of-31 and 4-of-17 from deep but looked much more fluid and confident in his stroke. He even striped an early 3-pointer with no hesitation just two-and-a-half minutes into the game and would finish 4-of-7 and 1-of-2 from behind the arc.
Kerr shortened his rotation, abandoning his 11-man first-quarter unit and went back to last season’s set with Curry and Green playing the entire first quarter together. It also helped that Curry was able to avoid any first quarter foul trouble, even after picking up a quick body foul to start the game.
JaVale McGee wasn’t apart of that rotation though, as he was a healthy inactive with Kerr opting to have Kevon Looney active instead. With Toronto absent its top two centers, Ibaka started at the five, so it looked to be a bad matchup for McGee.
It wasn’t about McGee doing anything wrong, it was more about rewarding Looney, Kerr said:
“I just felt like Looney deserved to be active. We have 15 guys who can all play and I think our guys here know how we operate as a staff, everybody is going to play at some point. JaVale is a pro, he wasn’t thrilled about it, and I don’t expect him to be, he’s human… But he knows he’s going to be back out there Friday and play a big role.”
It also shows the faith the team has in rookie Jordan Bell, who basically took McGee’s spot in the rotation.
And Bell is rewarding that trust, even taking McGee’s role as the highlight alley-oop:
Even with their top bigs out, Toronto got some major contributions from their fill-ins, second-year big Jakob Poeltl was dominant on the glass, ripping down 14 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end in his 27 minutes of action.
Green was shocked at the rebounding numbers:
“Poeltl had 11 offensive rebounds? It’s a focus thing at the end of the day. You have to give him a lot of credit he did a great job, but he’s not the most physical guy in the world.”
Toronto forward Pascal Siakam went off in the third quarter, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Siakam entered the game with just four total points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Unfortunately for the Raptors’ comeback hopes, the Warriors have their own player that can alter the course of a game with a big quarter — with a little more regularity — and Curry did just that, going for 13 points of his own in the third, before adding the nail in the coffin late.
Despite having a roster that isn’t known to have a bunch of shooters, the Raptors are right behind the Warriors in 3-pointers attempted per game with 36.7, good for third in the NBA this year.
That might not be an optimum strategy when shooting them at a 32.7 percent clip, which ranks in the bottom 10 of the league. The Warriors were more than happy to let them sit outside the arc and cast as the Raptors finished 8-of-34 from downtown.
Where one team lived by the 3, the other team died.
The homestand continues for Golden State as they take on John Wall and the Washington Wizards Friday night. It’ll be the first time these two teams meet since the Wizards got huffy after a late JaVale McGee 3-pointer sealed a 24-point Warriors win. And Washington has been known to hold a grudge or two.
With his 22 points, Klay Thompson’s donation total stands at $22,000 for victims and communities affected by the Northern California wildfires. He’ll have two more opportunities to rack up more money as he’s said he will donate $1,000 for every point he scores over this Warriors homestand. You can join him in pledging at pledgeit.org/klay, the total stood at over $3000 per point scored just before game time. … Patrick McCaw celebrated his 22nd birthday Thursday. The second-year wing has had a quiet season so far, totaling just four points in the Warriors first four games. But he got some early first quarter run on his birthday. … Stephen Curry shot and made his eight free throws Wednesday night making him a perfect 47-of-47 from the line through five games this season. Not only is he knocking them down but he’s drawing fouls at a prestigious rate. Just for reference he didn’t shoot his 47th free throw last year until game 10.