June 7, 2019 / 12:03 AM / 12 days ago

Warriors bank on Thompson's return for Game 4

OAKLAND - The Toronto Raptors can move within one game of their first championship Friday night, but likely they will see a different-looking opponent than two days earlier when they take the floor for Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena.

FILE PHOTO - Jun 2, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) and Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) go for a rebound in game two of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors, who trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, hope to get All-Star guard Klay Thompson back in action.

The hot-shooting Raptors easily brushed aside Golden State’s one-man assault in Game 3 when the visitors got double-figure scoring from all five starters to overcome Stephen Curry’s 47-point explosion in a 123-109 victory Wednesday.

With or without Thompson, who strained his left hamstring late in Golden State’s Game 2 win at Toronto and sat out Wednesday, the Warriors have scored exactly 109 points in all three games of the series.

The game outcomes have hinged on Toronto’s shooting accuracy.

The Raptors were held to 37.2 percent from the field and 28.9 percent on 3-pointers while putting up just 104 points in their Game 2 loss.

They have sandwiched that performance by hitting better than 50 percent from the field (50.6 percent in Game 1, 52.4 percent in Game 3) in their two wins, brilliant shooting nights that have included 39.4 percent and 44.7 percent accuracy from beyond the arc.

That shooting has produced nine- and 14-point wins and put the Eastern Conference champs right where they want to be — with a lead in the series on the eve of Game 4, where they have been unbeaten, including twice on the road, in their previous three series.

“We haven’t really had a good team shooting night, and I knew eventually at some point we were due for one,” Toronto guard Danny Green said after going 6-for-10 on 3-point attempts in Game 3. “We still have to do a better job defensively on that end of the floor to limit those guys better so we don’t have to rely on our offense or our shooting to win games for us.”

In a remarkable display of consistency, all seven Raptors who took a shot in Game 4 made at least half of their attempts. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 30 points, the 13th time this postseason that he’s reached that mark.

Only six others in NBA history — Michael Jordan (four times), Kobe Bryant (two times), LeBron James (two times), Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson — have had 13 or more 30-point games in a single postseason.

Just three of those guys (Jordan, Iverson and James) have ever scored 47 or more in a Finals game. In Game 3, Curry became the eighth player to put or 47 or more in the Finals, producing a career postseason high while shooting 14-for-31 overall and 6-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Without Thompson and Kevin Durant (strained right calf), he did that without getting much help. Only Draymond Green (17 points) and Andre Iguodala (11) also scored in double figures for the Warriors. The other eight members of the two-time defending champs who took at least one shot combined to go 12-for-38 (31.6 percent).

Golden State coach Steve Kerr announced Thursday that Durant, who hasn’t played since the Western Conference semifinals, also would miss Game 4.

Re-enter Thompson, who was given a thumbs-up after a workout and examination on Thursday. He was the Warriors’ leading scorer in the Game 2 win with 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting, which, Curry noted, only tells half the story.

“People fall in love with his shooting,” Curry said Thursday, “but the way that our team plays defensively and the chemistry that we have and the experience, he’s right at the forefront of that. So you would love to have him out there on that end of the floor as well, especially with a team like Toronto who is versatile and can space the floor. He can guard a lot of different guys.”

The winner of Game 3 in a 1-1 Finals has gone on to claim the championship on 31 of 38 occasions. But Draymond Green had different numbers bouncing around in his head after the Warriors’ Wednesday loss.

“We just got to continue to battle,” he said, “and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle (Arena), win Game 6 and then celebrate. Fun times ahead.”

—By Dave Del Grande, Field Level Media

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