Raptors turn table on Warriors by dominating third quarter, win big to take 3-1 series lead

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OAKLAND — With 4:19 left in the game, Steve Kerr called a timeout after a defensive breakdown that led to a Serge Ibaka dunk. The Warriors hung their heads, walking slowly back to their bench, looking exhausted. Looking beaten.

It was the look so many Warriors’ opponents had in Oracle Arena over the years after getting crushed in the second half.

For their entire run the last five years, the third quarter was the Warriors quarter. They owned it. They would toy with teams for a half like a cat with a ball of string, throw some playground passes, shoot deep threes, be a bit sloppy, then they cranked everything to 11 in the third, blew the doors off teams, and coasted home.

Friday night, Toronto owned the third.

Now they may soon own the series as well.

It was the Raptors who blew the doors off the Warriors in the third with suffocating defense, length to protect the rim, knock-down shooting on the way to 37 points in the frame, and Toronto just had too much Kawhi Leonard — 17 of his 36 points came on the third, he’s looking like a Finals MVP again — for the Warriors to handle.

“I thought they just took it to us right from the beginning of the quarter,” Kerr said. “Kawhi hit two threes immediately and they turned up their defense, and they just got on a run.”

“Oh, this sucks. It sucks really bad,” Draymond Green said of having the third quarter flipped on them.

Toronto won the third quarter by 16 and the game by 13, 105-92. The Raptors now have a commanding 3-1 series lead heading home to Toronto with the chance to close out the series Monday.

This may very well have been the last Warriors’ game at Oracle Arena in Oakland. If the Raptors do end the series out at home on Monday it will be.

Leonard was dominant again, scoring 36 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and playing lock-down defense. He hit maybe the two biggest shots of the game, both threes right at the start of the third quarter — what Fred VanVleet said after the game were “eff-you shots” — that set the tone for the second half.

He got help off the bench from Serge Ibaka, who had 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting plus was a defensive force at the rim, altering Warriors shots all night long. Pascal Siakam pitched in 19 for the Raptors.

Golden State’s third quarters — and their championship runs in general — were always fueled by defense. The Raptors have figured these Warriors out, shredding the high pick-and-roll defense that had been so much a part of the Warriors’ success. Golden State over-helps a lot on defense, something they can get away with against most teams, but the crisp ball movement of the Raptors left Golden State scrambling and getting Toronto open looks from three or dunks.

Often the Warriors’ offense covers up their defensive mistakes, but that was not the case in Game 4. Klay Thompson played well with 28 points on 18 shots in his return after missing a game with a strained hamstring.

Stephen Curry could never get going, finishing with 27 points and 2-of-9 shooting from three. While he would undoubtedly deny it, the heavy load he had to carry scoring 47 points in Game 3 seemed to take something out of his legs, a lot of his threes came up short.

Warriors not named Thompson shot just 40 percent (a number that got padded with a couple of late makes). They miss Kevin Durant, in the halfcourt in particular (the Raptors held the Warriors to 0.85 points per possession in the halfcourt in Game 4), but Durant may not be able to go in Game 5. His status is not known but things do not sound good.

Toronto’s depth was another major difference, with 28 bench points. Ibaka was a beast, FredVanVleet played good defense, and guys just got in a groove.

Eventually. There was a sloppy start to the game for both teams, led by DeMarcus Cousins turning the ball over the first three times he made a move, but the Warriors came out with a different energy, got off to a fast 8-3 start and led 23-17 after one quarter. The only reason it was that close was Leonard, who had 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting against a far more active Warriors defense than Game 3. The rest of the Raptors were 1-of-13 shooting in the first quarter.

The poor shooting continued through the entire first half — the teams were a combined 4-of-30 from three. Curry was 0-5 from beyond the arc. The Warriors improved defense was giving them more transition opportunities (they had 16 fast break points) but the 10 turnovers cut into their ability to pull away.

It was 46-42 at the half. Toronto had played poorly but was down just four, which was a reason for optimism.

Then the third quarter onslaught came.

And now the Raptors are on the doorstep of a historic championship.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.