It had been 20 long days since the Golden State Warriors played at Oracle Arena, an eternity in basketball time.
Their big homecoming to the arena they’re about to bid farewell to was a flop, with the injury-riddled Warriors falling to the Toronto Raptors, 123-109, in Game 3 of the NBA finals.
The Raptors now lead the best-of-seven series, two games to one.
The Warriors were without All-Stars Kevin Durant (strained right calf) and Klay Thompson (strained left hamstring), who was scratched in a game-time decision.
They were also missing Kevon Looney (right 1st costal non-displaced fracture).
Stephen Curry did anything and everything to try and keep the Warriors alive. He finished with 47 points on 45.2% shooting, the most he’s ever scored in a playoff game and the eighth-highest total in NBA finals history.
“Steph was incredible,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The stuff he does is, he does things that honestly I don’t think anybody has ever done before.
The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it and the combination of his ball handling and shooting skills, it’s incredible to watch. He was amazing.”
There was the time he made a long three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam with 2:18 left in the first half to help keep the Warriors within single-digits at halftime, 60-52.
Or the time he clawed the Warriors out of a 16-point hole by drawing a foul from Serge Ibaka with 10:30 left on a three-point attempt.
He went on to make all three free throws to bring the Warriors within seven points, 96-89.
But none of that was enough to threaten the Raptors, who responded with a 6-0 run and went on to push their lead to a game-high 17 points after Kawhi Leonard made a driving layup with 5:42 left.
The Warriors never drew within single digits again.
All five Raptors starters scored in double figures, including Leonard (30 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Lowry (23 points and nine assists), Danny Green (18 points), Siakam (18 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Marc Gasol (17 points and seven rebounds).
Lowry and Green were especially lethal from beyond the three-point line, where they were a combined 11-for-19. Ibaka added an impressive six blocked shots.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Green’s shooting boosted the whole team’s confidence. Green, who had struggled in Game 2 with eight points on three-for-seven shooting, revealed that he had gotten some pre-game advice from Shaquille O’Neal.
“He always just yells to me ‘leave it’ and that’s his way of saying leave your hand up there, hold your follow-through and be confident in your shot,” Green said.
The Warriors, meanwhile, struggled to get enough offense without the firepower of Durant and Thompson, who average a combined 47.5 points a night.
Draymond Green had 17 points and Andre Iguodala added 11, but no other Warriors scored in double-digits.
The Raptors outshot the Warriors 52.4% to 39.6% from the field, and 44.7% to 33.3% from beyond the three-point line.
While the Warriors knew heading into Wednesday’s game that Durant was out, Thompson’s status dangled in the balance until tip-off.
Seventy-five minutes before the game, Kerr still didn’t know whether the Warriors were going to allow Thompson to play, though he said five-time All-Star was “desperately trying to be out on the floor”.
But Thompson, who sustained the injury with 7:59 left in Game 2, was officially ruled out minutes before the game, snapping a streak of playing in 120 consecutive playoff games.
Kerr said the Warriors plan to have Durant try a three-on-three or a five-on-five situation at Thursday’s practice with some of the younger guys and coaches.
And as for Thompson, Kerr said he’s hopeful he’ll play in Game 4 on Friday.
“Never would I have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt,” Kerr said. “So you live with the decision you make.
You make a wise decision, the wisest one you can, and then you live with it and move forward.”
Leonard said that winning while Thompson was sidelined was “very important” for the Raptors, who are making their first-ever finals appearance.
The Raptors took advantage of their opportunity, knowing full well that the return of two of the biggest names in basketball could be looming soon.
“Two wins away now,” Leonard said. “Let’s see what this momentum carries us to.”