After another excruciating gap between games, we have arrived at Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals (at least this time there was travel involved, the two off days between Games 1 and 2 were criminal). The importance of tonight’s contest is not lost on anyone. As noted in Marc Stein’s most recent newsletter, teams that win Game 3 in an NBA Finals tied at one game apiece are 31-7 for the series.
Analysts and fans alike had plenty to dissect from Sunday night’s Game 2. Toronto missed a truckload of open spots, and Golden State ripped off 20 straight unanswered points to take the lead in the third quarter; it was the longest run in NBA Finals history. The Warriors really leaned in to their Strength in Numbers motto, assisting on all of 22 of their made shots in the second half. However, the tide nearly turned when Raptors head coach Nick Nurse unveiled a box-and-one strategy that helped keep the Warriors scoreless for five-and-a-half minutes until Andre Iguodala’s game-sealing 3-pointer. The tactic caused Steph Curry to not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. Whether we see that strategy again, and what counters Steve Kerr may have devised, is just one example of the fascinating facets of this series as we move to California tonight.
As great as they are on the road, the Warriors ratchet things up to another level at home. Golden State has gone 45-8 in the postseason at Oracle Arena over this current five-year dynastic run. Add in the fact that this is either the third- or second-to-last Warriors game to be played in the building before the team leaves Oakland, and it should be a particularly daunting environment for the Raptors.
Of course, this is not necessarily the same Warriors group taking the floor tonight that has run rampant over the league in recent years. Two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant remains out for Game 3 with the strained calf that has sidelined him since the Rockets series. Key big man Kevon Looney is also out with a cartilage fracture of his rib cage. Plus, usual ironman Klay Thompson is a game-time decision with left hamstring tightness; the Warriors reportedly would prefer him to sit, but he is lobbying to play. Sure, it’s great to have a ton of stars to step up when others go down, but rosters can only go so deep. Sixers fans surely know this having watched their team turn to Greg Monroe for critical (and disastrous) postseason minutes.
Even the Golden State players set to take the floor are having health difficulties. Andre Iguodala has a plethora of nagging injuries he is playing through in order to, in his words, help protect Steph Curry’s legacy. Curry, himself, wasn’t feeling well and went to the locker room during Game 2. DeMarcus Cousins played well Sunday night, but has stated he has no idea how close he is to being back to 100 percent.
If ever there was a time for an opponent to take down the Warriors at home, this would be it. The Raptors will need another superhuman effort from Kawhi Leonard. Does the Board Man (and his sore quads) have a few more big performances in him before he gets paid as a free agent? Which Pascal Siakam will Toronto fans see tonight: the version that shot 14-of-17 in Game 1, or the guy who shot 5-of-18 in Game 2 (partially due to Andre Iguodala switching his defensive assignment onto Siakam)?
We’ve got plenty of storylines to discuss and two star-studded teams putting on an entertaining display in these NBA Finals. Follow along in the comments for all of tonight’s Game 3 action.
Who: Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 9:00 pm EST
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Listen: ESPN Radio