OAKLAND — Don’t overthink this.
Toronto is up 2-1 in the NBA Finals because it has taken advantage of a shorthanded Golden State squad. The Warriors’ defense struggled in Game 3 without Klay Thompson there to put on Kawhi Leonard (moving Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green off the Klaw and into better help positions). The Warriors halfcourt offense struggled in Game 3, as it did in Game 1, scoring well below a point per possession in part because they don’t have the walking mismatch that is Kevin Durant.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr made it sound like Durant could play Friday night in Game 4.
“He had a really good workout [Tuesday], ramped it up, and it went well. He had another one [Wednesday], it went well,” Kerr said of Durant, who is recovering from a strained calf suffered in the Houston series. “So we would like to increase it [Thursday], meaning get other people involved, he hasn’t played any three-on-three, five-on-five.
“We probably won’t practice, practice as a team [Thursday]. It will be a film session and a walkthrough. So if possible, we’ll get him together with some of our young guys, maybe a few of our coaches and try to get him out on the floor. That would be the next step…
“He’s got to continue to improve and not have any setbacks. That’s the main thing. So we’ll go from there.”
That is by far the most optimistic Kerr has sounded about Durant to this point. Durant– who has been out since May 8, straining his calf in Game 4 of the Houston series) has been around the team, taking part in film sessions, and he traveled to Toronto with the Warriors for the first two games, but it hasn’t sounded like he could play. Until now.
With the Warriors down 2-1 in the series, Game 4 may not technically be must win but it might as well be. Beating this Raptors team three straight games — even with Durant and Thompson — would be a tall order.
Thompson was a game-time decision on Wednesday for Game 3, but the Warriors medical staff and front office chose not to play him because of the risk of aggravating his strained hamstring in a way that would have him out deep into what the Warriors believe is a series that will go six or seven games.
“If there’s risk [of making it worse, then we would not play him…” Kerr said of Thompson before Game 3. “And ultimately that’s the — to cut right to the core of it, it’s still early in the series, so if there’s risk, then we won’t play him.”
Down 2-1, that calculus changes somewhat – it’s not early in the series anymore.
Expect a different looking Warriors team on Friday night, one way or another.