Raptors’ role players ‘let it rip’ in Game 3 victory

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OAKLAND — Three words were written on the whiteboard at the front of the Raptors’ locker room:

“Let it rip.”

“I think we all kind of followed that advice,” Danny Green said after his 18-point game.

Then he poked holes that narrative.

“But it’s just easier to look at that now and say it worked great for us, especially on a great shooting night,” Green said.

Forget narrative, it simply was a great shooting night for the Raptors, and that was one of the key reasons Toronto won Game 3 and is now up 2-1 in the NBA Finals. After struggling in Game 2, Toronto’s supporting cast took advantage of a shorthanded Warriors defense to get to their spots, make the extra pass, and knock down seemingly everything.

Kawhi Leonard had 30 points on 17 shots, but it was the other guys that were the difference.

Kyle Lowry had 23 points and was 5-of-9 from three. Pascal Siakam had 18 points, nine rebounds, and was a team best +22. Green’s 18 came on 6-of-10 shooting from three. Marc Gasol added 17 points. The Raptors shot 52.4 percent as a team, hit 17 threes, and racked up a ridiculous 126.8 offensive rating.

The offense won the Raptors Game 3.

“We haven’t really had a good team shooting night [in the Finals], and I knew eventually at some point we were due for one,” Green said. “So luckily we got one tonight, but 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.”

Lowry was the catalyst outside of Leonard that the Raptors have needed all series, pushing the ball in transition and playing downhill of the pick-and-roll. He thought his performance was more about mindset than anything else.

“For me, it was just coming off being aggressive and not so being passive and trying to get everybody else involved and more so get myself going and let everybody else feed off of that,” Lowry said.

Leonard was doing the same thing.

“Once I’m driving in the paint, kicking out to guys that are making shots, the defense doesn’t want to collapse as easy, and we just got to keep playing them in a flow, really,” Leonard said. “I feel like we just don’t need to worry about me scoring the basketball, we all can score with the offense that we have, just got to keep moving.”

Toronto’s offense was the most consistent part of their game, and it covered up some defensive lapses that let the Warriors hang around in the game.

“We just kept scoring,” said Fred Van Vleet, who had 11 points off the bench. “We knew that they were going to make a run. Just tried to keep continuing to put pressure on them and just work the game.”

Can the Raptors repeat this performance — getting and hitting those same shots — against a Warriors team that may have Klay Thompson and/or Kevin Durant back in Game 4? Every step in the Finals is harder, and the next one will be for Toronto, mostly because Golden State will be better. Combine the expected talent upgrade (on defense as well as offense) with a sense of desperation from the Warriors and it makes for a new challenge for the Raptors.

We’ll see if the Raptors can let it rip on Friday night.