EditorsNote: adds quotes, details
OAKLAND, Calif. — The message on the chalkboard in the Toronto Raptors’ locker room Wednesday night was short and to the point: “Let it rip.”
Coincidentally, it was exactly what the Golden State Warriors were trying to avoid with Klay Thompson’s strained left hamstring.
So on a night when both teams got, at least in part, what they were hoping for, the Raptors rode the 3-point shooting of Danny Green and Kyle Lowry, plus 30 points from Kawhi Leonard, to a 123-109 victory in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
With Warriors All-Stars Thompson and Kevin Durant relegated to watching because of injuries, the Raptors overcame a 47-point explosion by Stephen Curry to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and steal back home-court advantage.
Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night, also on Golden State’s home floor.
With the possibility that Thompson (hamstring) and Durant (calf) could return as early as the next game, Leonard said the Raptors’ mind-set in their first road game of the series was to take advantage of the favorable situation.
“It was a lot of pressure,” he admitted after his 13th 30-point outing of the postseason. “If one of the main guys is not playing, they can still come out and get a win. Steph played great tonight. But it was big. I’m happy we got it. Two wins away now, and let’s see what this momentum carries us to.”
After blowing a double-digit lead in Game 2 only to regain another in the first half of Game 3, the Raptors were clinging to an 83-75 advantage in the final three minutes of the third period before Green bombed in back-to-back 3-pointers to expand the margin to 14.
Toronto went on to lead by as many as 16 in the period, the last time when Green nailed his third 3-pointer of the period and sixth of the game for a 96-80 advantage with 29.2 seconds remaining.
“Danny’s buckets boosted our whole team’s confidence because we’re kind of used to most of the year relying on those,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “When he banked a couple there and then he kind of kept it going, it was a huge confidence boost all around.”
The Warriors, who hadn’t played a home game in 20 days and hadn’t lost at home since the first round of the postseason, never got closer than seven after that.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” Nurse said. “We answered a lot of runs ... down to seven a bunch and came back and scored a bucket or hit a three. Each time they chipped, we kind of answered back. That’s kind of what you got to do if you’re going to keep your lead.”
Green finished with 18 points, with all his points coming on 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. The six threes were his most this postseason, but one fewer than the seven he made twice in the postseason for the San Antonio Spurs in 2013 and 2014.
Kyle Lowry complemented Leonard’s 30 points and Green’s long-distance shooting with five 3-pointers en route to 23 points. He also had a game-high nine assists.
The Raptors shot 17-for-38 on 3-point attempts, outscoring the Warriors 51-36 from beyond the arc.
Pascal Siakam (18 points, game-high nine rebounds) and Marc Gasol (17 points) also scored in double figures for Toronto, which was playing its first road game in 13 days.
Curry’s 47 points, a career postseason high, came on 14-of-31 shooting overall and 6-of-14 accuracy on 3-point attempts. The 47 points topped his previous postseason best of 44 at San Antonio in 2013.
Curry also found time for team highs in rebounds with eight and assists with seven.
“Steph was incredible,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The stuff he does ... he does things that honestly I don’t think anybody has ever done before. It’s incredible to watch. He was amazing.”
The Warriors’ supporting cast, however, could do no better than 17 points from Draymond Green and 11 from Andre Iguodala.
“I got to play better and offer (Curry) more help,” said Draymond Green, whose run of six straight double-double performances came to an end. “I think if I played better with the night that he had, we would have won.”
Playing without two of their most accurate shooters, as well high-percentage-shooting big man Kevon Looney (fractured ribcage cartilage), the Warriors were outshot 52.4 percent to 39.6 percent overall.
Afterward, Kerr defended the decision to sit out Thompson even after the ironman, who had played in a franchise-record 120 consecutive playoff games, had lobbied to suit up.
“The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out of the rest of the series,” Kerr said of the team’s priorities. “So that was the decision we made, and I feel very comfortable with it.”
The Raptors wasted little time taking advantage of their short-handed foe, running off to a 17-7 lead behind 10 combined points from Siakam and Gasol.
Despite 25 points by Curry, the most he’s ever scored in a half in an NBA Finals game, Toronto led by as many as 14 in the first two periods before settling into a 60-52 advantage at the break.
—By Dave Del Grande, Field Level Media