Up 2-1 at one point in that 2015 Finals, the Cavaliers eventually lost to the Warriors in six games despite LeBron James, who was without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, putting on a Herculean effort that series by averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game.
That was the case in Game 3 on Wednesday night when Steph Curry played like he was back at Davidson, going for 47 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in a 123-109 loss to the Raptors. Despite his LeBron like effort, his teammates, minus Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, couldn’t ascend to his level as nine of them combined to score only points for the Warriors.
“Steph was incredible. He does things that, honestly I don’t think anybody has ever done before,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr after the game. “The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it, and the combination of his ballhandling and shooting skills are incredible to watch. He was amazing.”
For the first time in their five-year run, the Warriors are the ones that are beat up, injured, and in trouble.
It was the Cavs without Irving and Love in 2015, the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard in 2017, the Rockets without Chris Paul last season, and the Trail Blazers without Jusuf Nurkic this year. But now it’s Golden State’s turn to be wounded in a pivotal series as it’s still unclear when Durant and Thompson could return to the floor.
And while much of the discussion around Game 3 will focus on what Curry did and who wasn’t on the floor for the Warriors, it was the Raptors who took advantage as they built a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter behind a team effort that saw all of their top guys clicking on all cylinders.
“For us, we just have to continue to be locked into the game plan and can’t have any mental lapses, because that’s what hurts us,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry after a 23 point and 9 assists night in which he was 5-for-9 from deep. “We just have to continue to work, play hard, and stay level-headed.”
After a poor shooting night in Game 2 where he went 8-for-20 from the field, Leonard bounced back with 30 points on 9 of 17 shooting. Pascal Siakam returned to his Game 1 form as he grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 6 assists to complement his 18 points. Marc Gasol even stepped up with 17 big points of his own.
But it was the shooting of Danny Green and Fred VanVleet that made the biggest difference for Toronto, as they combined to go 9 of 16 from deep, for a total of 29 points.
“The thing about those guys is that they continue to be good. Danny (Green) had a little bit of a struggle the last series, but we continued to encourage him to shoot the ball,” Lowry explained. “And Fred (VanVleet) had a baby and he’s been lights out.”
Now all of the attention will be focused on the health of Durant and Thompson as the Warriors are 1-4 against the Raptors this season. And after five matchups, people are realizing that Toronto is better than most people outside of Canada believed.
Before Wednesday night, the Warriors had won their past five Finals home games. And with the winner of Game 3 in a 1-1 tie in the NBA Finals winning 31 of 38 series, the Raptors are now the favorite to win their first title in franchise history.