All season, the refrain for the Warriors has been: just wait.
Just wait until the playoffs start.
Just wait until they get punched in the mouth.
Just wait until they get healed.
Well the time has come — and gone — for the Warriors to do any more waiting. After a 105-92 surgical dismantling, Toronto stands just one win away from putting an end to this Warriors behemoth and closing down Oracle Arena.
But it was the Raptors who looked like the reigning, defending champs. The poise the Warriors touted as championship experience, was reserved for only the team in red.
A 3-1 series deficit is intimidating to be sure, but Draymond Green knows it’s not impossible:
“We just got to take it one game at a time. We got to win one game. We win one, then we’ll build on that. I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history.”
Winning three games in a row is hard enough, but the way Kawhi Leonard is playing makes it that much more difficult. He picked apart the Warriors blitzing defense like a machine, putting up 36 points and 12 rebounds.
And ironically it was during the third quarter, the quarter the Warriors usually own, when Leonard and the Raptors took control. They outscored Golden State 37-21 in the third frame and never looked back.
Stephen Curry said it was just one of those games for Leonard:
“He hit every big shot, momentum shot that in that third quarter, it gave them the lead. And then kept the separation. We played pretty well for 26 minutes, and then they took control of the game. It’s one of those nights where you play a lot of energy and you start to build momentum and then the wheels fall off a little bit.”
It’s been like a game of whack-a-mole for the Warriors, when they think they’ve taken a player out of the game, another one springs up.
Green said it’s been hard to counter:
“Seems like every game it’s somebody else. You know, Danny Green in Game 3, then we completely take him out of the game tonight, and Serge, and so — like I said, we got to win one game, and however we got to get that done, start with that and go from there.”
The Warriors got herculean performances from their injured players. Thompson led the team with 28 points, while managing to play 42 minutes just days after pulling his hamstring.
After the game Thompson said that his hamstring was just fine:
“It didn’t affect me. Like I said before, it’s the Finals, it’s a long season, you play a hundred-plus games, you’re going to be banged up. But you just got to dig deep. No one’s going to feel sorry for you, so you just got to go out there, man up and play the best of your ability.”
His movement looked basically normal and was pretty aggressive offensively, all while chasing around Kyle Lowry. He was the only Warrior to have any semblance of offensive rhythm, going 6-of-10 from 3, as Golden State as a whole went just 8-of-27.
The only other player to hit a 3 was Curry, who went an awful 2-of-9 from downtown and looked worn out from his Game 3 performance. He looked like he was playing in slow motion for much of the game and was hounded by the Raptors swarming defense.
When asked if he could have done more to get him going Steve Kerr said it’s going to have to be more than just one thing:
“Well, we’ll take a look at the tape, but we have been playing a certain style for a long time here. And the ball moves, and Steph as one of the great off-ball cutters in the league and can play on and off the ball. And so we’re trying to mix up the different things that we do. And it wasn’t his best game, but he’ll bounce back.”
And incredibly, Looney was able to gut out a return from a costal cartilage fracture, after being initially ruled out for the rest of the series.
It was obvious to everyone he was laboring. He didn’t dunk his usual oop from Draymond Green instead finished with one you’d see a middle-school kid. And it even effected his movement, as he was late on a lot of closeouts and couldn’t stay in front of people on the perimeter like he normally does.
But all that was acceptable, because just his presence on the court enabled the Warriors to look like their normal selves.
Kerr said they both put forth extraordinary efforts considering the injuries:
“Klay was amazing, with a tweaked hamstring to do what he did. Looney as well, coming in and playing 20 minutes given his injury status. So both those guys they’re warriors. No pun intended. They just compete, compete, compete, and I’m really proud of both of them. Both played really well, but I mean, it wasn’t enough in terms of our team effort.”
But without any help from the healthy members of the Warriors roster, there was just not enough to overcome Toronto.
For the second game in a row, DeMarcus Cousins looked like he belonged nowhere near the court in this Finals. He started the game off with two fouls and three turnovers in the first five minutes of the contest.
He was forcing dribbles into Marc Gasol and the rest of the Raptors set defense, while Curry and Thompson ran around screens. And once again was hunted on defense.
It’s hard not to feel for Cousins, who has now made two arduous returns from daunting injuries this season. But if the Warriors want to win a title with and for him, Steve Kerr and the coaching staff is going to need to make the difficult decision of benching him for the remainder of the series.
With Looney’s return it’s obvious to even the most casual observer that the Warriors are a completely different—and better—team with Cousins on the bench. Andrew Bogut has even passed him in the effectiveness department, which should tell you all you need to know.
And yet, Cousins was back starting the second half, and predictably the Warriors got lit up.
It’s been the story for the Warriors all series—not adjusting to the Raptors.
The team hasn’t been able to adjust to the Raptors length and defense, their defense hasn’t adjusted to the Raptors picking apart their traps on Leonard’s pick-and-rolls, and Kerr and the coaching staff hasn’t adjusted to matchups.
Meanwhile, on the other sideline, Nick Nurse continues to tweak his starting lineups and rotations, starting VanVleet in the second half after regular Danny Green came back down to earth in Game 4.
The Raptors look like the fresher, hungrier and more composed team. They look like champions.
While the Warriors are still searching for answers. Just waiting.
The Warriors have one more chance to give Oracle Arena a proper closeout, but that only happens if they are able to turn it around Game 5 Monday in Toronto.
Fred VanVleet left the game in the fourth after needing seven stitches from an inadvertent elbow from Shaun Livingston. He wasn’t ruled out so he should be fine to for Game 5. …The Warriors were up six after the first quarter, which is the first time they’ve had a lead of more than one point at the end of the first since May 14.