OAKLAND — The narrative of these NBA Finals is all about the Golden State Warriors.
The injuries. The comeback timelines. The star players. The quest for history. The story mostly has been about why the Warriors are not crushing the Raptors like they have everyone else. There is a begrudging nod that Toronto may actually pose a challenge.
The Raptors do not care what everyone thinks.
They know being up 2-1 in this series is exactly where they are supposed to be.
“If we didn’t feel like we could be here, we wouldn’t be here right now. Simple as that,” Kawhi Leonard said in his straightforward way. “I have the same confidence. You can’t let losses or wins effect that. It’s about what you think and feel that’s in your body, your inner thoughts and you know what you portray to your team and what your team is telling you and what we all feel. And that’s why we are here, we have confidence.”
Confidence that at the end of Friday night they will be up 3-1 and heading home to close this series out.
“We haven’t gotten ahead of ourselves the whole year, we haven’t gotten ahead of ourselves in the playoffs, it’s not gonna start now,” Fred VanVleet said. “We’re up 2-1, we’re on the road, and we’re just thinking about trying to get another win. We’re not thinking about the rest of the series, we’re thinking about Game 4.”
The Raptors franchise has been good for years, winning at least 50 games four straight seasons and having been to the playoffs six years in a row. This season, however, has been different. Leonard has infused the team with his calm demeanor, and with his unwavering confidence. Nick Nurse has this team believing this team is ready for any challenge.
It doesn’t matter what you believe about them, they believe in themselves.
They believe they can win a second game on the road Friday night and take command of the series.
“To me, this is a one-game series tomorrow,” Nurse said. “We’re just trying to take them like each game’s critical. We need to put a huge effort in because I think if we put a huge effort in and we’re the hardest playing team, then we’re going to deserve to win. And that’s all we’re focused on.”
“I mean, it would be very important,” Leonard said. “I mean, it would be a third win, and you need four to win. You already know how important that is. It’s 3-1.”
But for Game 4, Klay Thompson will be back on the court.
“We just played him twice,” VanVleet said, and the Raptors won one of those game. “I know he missed last game, but his presence just changes a little bit, what we do with Steph, not really what we do with Klay…. I know he got hot in Game 2, we know what he brings to the table, so we’ve got to try and limit him as much as possible.”
“The plan is that you attack them,” Nurse said. “When you draw multiple defenders, do your best to get off it, because you’ve done your job if you’re drawing multiple, two guys or three guys, you’ve really done your job, and hit the open man and play from there.”
“The margin for error… it’s very tight,” VanVleet said. “One possession can change a series. With those kinds of stakes, it takes a different level of mental focus and physical performance. I think just being engulfed in the excellence that it takes to keep winning at a high level for a really long time — the postseason is about two months — that’s something we keep in mind.”
There is still a lot of series to go, the Warriors sat Thompson for Game 3 because they knew that. They wanted him for games six and seven, not just three.
The Raptors, however, do not care. They believe in themselves.
“[Our confidence] should be high,” Van Vleet said. “Our confidence has been steady all year, and as we continue to play good, we continue to grow, it’s just showing the type of team we can be. We just have to continue to do it. We’re only halfway there, we’ve got two more wins to go.”