As the NBA Finals shifts to Oakland, Calif., Toronto Raptors fans will be looking for a Game 3 win against the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night in order to retake the series lead.
The game at Oracle Arena, which is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET, comes three days after the Raptors lost 109-104 at Scotiabank Arena, giving up a five-point lead at the half.
“Despite the fact the Warriors kind of blew them off the floor, they still had a chance to win,” Daniel Reynolds, editor-in-chief of Raptors HQ, told Global News ahead of Game 3, praising a strong defensive effort by Golden State.
“[The Raptors’] defence was not quite as sharp. The Warriors ran a lot of back-cut plays and it led to a lot of easy plays at the rim — dunks and such. On offence, they really just couldn’t get shots.”
Reynolds said when looking at the two games of the finals as well as the Raptors’ semi-finals series against the Philadelphia 76ers, there is reason for optimism — despite the most recent loss.
“They’ve been in charge for six of the eight quarters in the series and it’s a 1-1 split, which is pretty remarkable for the Warriors. But some of the things are going in the Raptors way,” he said, also noting the team lost Game 2 against the 76ers but went on to win that series with a buzzer-beater in Game 7.
“They’ve shown they can bounce back from performances like that.”
Also working to the Raptors’ advantage on Wednesday are injuries affecting several Warriors players. Officials confirmed forward Kevin Durant won’t be playing in Game 3, centre-forward Kevon Looney is out for the remainder of the season and guard Klay Thompson is a game-time decision.
“Suddenly, now the Warriors are even more depleted than they were before, so the Raptors have to feel like they still have a pretty good chance of winning the series,” Reynolds said.
“Without Kevon Looney, they’re going to be relying a lot more on DeMarcus Cousins who started in Game 2 and actually seemed to be getting better as the game went along, but he is coming off a pretty serious injury … you don’t know how many minutes you’re going to get from him.”
So what do the Raptors need to do to secure a win? Overall, Reynolds said the team needs to maintain its composure, “keep an even keel and not get too wrapped up in Oracle Arena.”
As for the team’s strategy, he said it’s two-pronged.
“They need to get back to their defensive principles that they used in Game 1 — making sure that they’re tight on the perimeter, and the switches are fast and they’re protecting the rim,” Reynolds said.
“On offence, the ball just has to move a little bit more. The Raptors give it to Kawhi Leonard and ask him to create a lot, but that’s tough when he’s being guarded by two or, sometimes, three guys. He has to see the passes to make to hopefully lead to easier buckets.”
Reynolds said it will be up to three players in particular to support Leonard.
“It starts with [Kyle Lowry]. He’s the heart of the team just like Draymond Green is the heart of the Warriors,” Reynolds said.
“Lowry has to sort of respond to the call here and come out with a strong, sound game. In Game 2, he was in foul trouble … he wasn’t really dictating play for the Raptors. When he’s good, the rest of the Raptors are good — when he goes, they go.”
Reynolds said he’ll be looking for Pascal Siakam to “get back to scoring more effectively” and for Marc Gasol to “move the ball, play strong defence and take the open shots that are there.”
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