Jonas Jerebko

Stephen Curry’s 47 not enough to save Warriors from themselves, Raptors win Game 3

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OAKLAND — When it was made official about 30 minutes before tip-off that Klay Thompson would not suit up for the Warriors because of his strained hamstring — joining Kevin Durant in street clothes — the first reaction was “this is going to look like Stephen Curry at Davidson.”

It did. He put up a career playoff-high of 47 and was at the heart of everything Golden State did on offense. He was brilliant.

The second reaction to was: The Warriors are in a lot of trouble on defense.

That proved to be the bigger problem. When Golden State won the second half of Game 2 (and that game), it was with Thompson on Kawhi Leonard, which put Andre Iguodala (on Pascal Siakam) and Draymond Green (on Kyle Lowry) in better help positions. It worked.

In Game 3, without Thompson, the Warriors simply could not get stops. Leonard had 30 points, Lowry 23, and the Raptors shot 52.4 percent as a team, and hit 17 threes. Toronto simply made good plays and hit their shots on their way to a ridiculous 126.8 offensive rating.

The result was a comfortable 123-109 Toronto win in Oracle to take a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is Friday night at Oracle.

“Toronto played an excellent game, made big shots every time they needed to,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We never could get over the hump. Every time we fought back and kind of got it to six, seven or eight, whatever it was, they made big shots.”

The Warriors didn’t play Thompson because they didn’t want to risk aggravating his hamstring issue, believing this is going to be a long series, something Warriors coach Steve Kerr suggested.

“The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out of the rest of the series,” Kerr said of the decision to sit Thompson. “So that was the decision we made, and I feel very comfortable with it.”

Now they need to play Thompson — and maybe Kevin Durant, who is expected to play on the court with teammates at the team’s facility on Thursday, Kerr said — for Game 4 or this may not be a long series.

That the Warriors see long series speaks to their respect for the Raptors. This is an outstanding Toronto team that is going to take a full-strength Golden State to have a chance beat.

The Raptors felt like they were themselves on Wednesday, compared to Game 2.

“We tried to play with more pace up the court, and we tried to play with more pace in the half court,” Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought you just saw a lot more cutting and passing, obviously 30 assists, you saw a lot more shots go in, that helps, right?”

That full Raptors team showed up in Game 3, with the supporting cast making plays — Toronto hit 17-of-38 threes, 44.7 percent. Lowry had 23 points but also dished out nine assists, setting the table for the role players. Danny Green and Siakam each had 18 points (Siakam also had nine boards), and Marc Gasol added 17 points.

Those Raptors took advantage of the Warriors porous defense. All game long the Raptors got the shots they wanted, made the extra pass, and knocked down the clean looks they earned.

Golden State’s defense was quietly kind of pedestrian all season (11th in the league in defensive rating), but it was overlooked because the offense was so good, and because for stretches the Warriors could summon up the elite defense that won them back-to-back NBA titles.

Shorthanded this series — they really miss Kevon Looney on that end, not just Durant and Thompson — the Warriors have only played that kind of defense for two of the 12 quarters. Maybe only one quarter.

In Game 3, the Warriors went right at DeMarcus Cousins, and he struggled. Toronto got him into space on the pick-and-roll and he couldn’t move, taking poor angles to recover for his lack of mobility. At other points, Gasol just backed Cousins down.

It wasn’t just him. Quinn Cook couldn’t stay in front of Lowry and others. Jonas Jerebko was no match for Siakam. And that list only grew for Steve Kerr. He just didn’t have options.

The themes of this game were clear early.

It was the Curry show on offense for the Warriors from the opening tip — he scored or assisted on nine of the 10 Golden State first quarter buckets. Toronto’s defense was able to keep the other Warriors in check early, Curry started on 2-of-4 shooting, but the rest of the team was 0-of-6, including 0-of-4 from three. Toronto got out to a 15-7 lead and was up by 10 for stretches of the first quarter. The Raptors 36-29 after one, but it felt like the Warriors were still in it.

Curry got some rest to start second and the Warriors were -5 in a little over three minutes, but when he returned the Warriors were able to hang around. Toronto had a stretch of nearly 5 minutes without scoring, and it kept Golden State in the game. The Raptors led 60-52 at the half, but the Warriors were within striking distance when they shouldn’t have been.

That’s because of Stephen Curry’s 25 points in the first half on 7-of-13 shooting overall, including 4-of-8 from three. Plus he did this to Kyle Lowry.

In the third it’s more of the same — the Raptors couldn’t pull away, the Warriors can’t close the gap — until with about three minutes left in the quarter the Warriors looked gassed, Curry in particular. Toronto stretched the lead to 16 because the Warriors simply could not get stops. It was 96-83 Raptors after three.

In the fourth, the Warriors would make a mini-run, the Raptors would hit a big shot to stop the run, and the momentum died. The Warriors just could not get the stops they needed.

Toronto will come out in Game 4 looking to take control of the series, will the Warriors have the health and defense to make it is a game becomes the big questions.

Stephen Curry drops 25 in first half, shakes and bakes Kyle Lowry

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OAKLAND — The Warriors are down just eight points to the Raptors at the half of Game 3, despite no Klay Thompson, no Kevin Durant, and playing no good defense for extended stretches.

They are close because of Stephen Curry.

Curry scored 25 points in the 24 minutes on 7-of-13 shooting overall, including 4-of-8 from three. Plus he did this to Kyle Lowry.

Curry has kept the Warriors within striking distance of the Raptors, the question is can these banged up Warriors pull off the kind of second-half comeback we’ve come to expect from this team?

Curry is going to have to dominate another half (which may be harder because Toronto is not going to keep Kyle Lowry on him), but more than that the Warriors need to play much better defense (particularly bench guys such as Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko).

It was an ugly end of the game by Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Warriors

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With 1:10 left in the game Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors were down just one point, 109-108, to the Dallas Mavericks following a Luka Doncic floater. Warriors fans — and the Warriors themselves — had to feel confident, this is the kind of game they close out and win. The Warriors have done it for years. Sure Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were out, but is where the Warriors other big stars hit big shots.

Not on Saturday night:

Kevin Durant missed a running hook shot from 7 feet.

• Durant missed an 11-foot fadeaway jumper.

Klay Thompson missed a clean-look 16-foot baseline jumper.

• Down 3 with :04 seconds left, Durant intentionally misses a free throw, Jonas Jerebko gets the offensive rebound, then goes up with an 11-foot two-pointer that does the team no good.

It wasn’t just the final minute. In the fourth quarter, Durant was 1-of-7 shooting, missed his last four shots, and was a -7. Thompson was 3-of-8 in the fourth and also a -7.

With Curry and Green out — something to expect for a few more games — Durant and Thompson combined to shoot 41.7 percent overall (20-of-48) overall and 2-of-15 (13.3 percent) from three. The Warriors can’t win that way, and didn’t.

Don’t read “the Warriors are in trouble” into that — it’s just one game. In November. We all should expect the Warriors to be healthy when it matters most next April and reform Voltron to wipe out the rest of the NBA.

However, in the short term, the Warriors need their stars to step up. This is not as deep a team as Golden State has rolled out during this run, it relies more on its star power, and Saturday night that let them down.

Jonas Jerebko? Yes, Jonas Jerebko with game-winner for Warriors

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Jonas Jerebko was a quality under-the-radar pickup for Golden State last summer, a solid veteran power forward who can space the floor and hit threes.

Obviously, the Warriors got him to be their go-to player in the clutch.

Or, at least, that’s what happened in Utah on Friday night.

Jerebko inbounded the ball then rolled to the rim. Rudy Gobert put a body on him, but as Kevin Durant went up for his game-winner attempt, Gobert took a step toward him and that gave Jerebko the space to get inside Gobert. From there it was just a tip in.

This was a wildly entertaining game, where Kevin Durant dropped 38, Stephen Curry had 31, and for Utah Joe Ingles put on a show on his way to 27. Check out the finish of this game, it was amazingly fun basketball with a lot of emotion for the second game of the season.

Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins not even best development of their summer

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Rockets downgraded. LeBron James didn’t form a super team anywhere. Only the Raptors emerged as a new contender, and that’s only if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

The Warriors’ path to another championship looks even clearer now than it did at the beginning of the summer.

Oh, and they signed DeMarcus Cousins.

Of course Golden State isn’t assured a third straight title and fourth in five years. I’ve been banging the drum against the inevitability of a Warriors championship during this entire run, and I’m sure not stopping now. There are too many variables just to assume one team will cruise against a field of 29 others. But few teams have ever looked so well-positioned entering the season.

Golden State returns its entire elite core. Kevin Durant re-signed, though on just another 1+1 deal. Uncertainty seems unavoidable with him.

At least he’ll be a known factor next season. The same can’t be said of Cousins.

Cousins’ Achilles tear makes it unclear when he’ll play, let alone when he’ll play at a high level. Even once he gets healthy and on track individually, there are real questions about how he’ll fit with the Warriors. Cousins won’t necessarily be the dominant force that stacks the deck insurmountably in Golden State’s favor.

There was also a real opportunity cost to signing him. The Warriors needed more wings rather than another center, and they used their biggest tool to upgrade – the mid-level exception – on Cousins. And they’ll almost certainly get him for only one year. The largest starting salary they can effectively offer him next summer is just $6,404,400. If Cousins can’t command far more than that on the open market, he probably wouldn’t be welcomed back, anyway.

All that said, Golden State had to sign him when he agreed to play for so little. He’s so darned talented. It’s worth the risk. If everything pans out, he could help the 2018-19 Warriors stake a claim as the greatest team of all time.

Otherwise, the Warriors were pretty conservative this summer.

They drafted Jacob Evans No. 28 and signed Kevon Looney and Jonas Jerebko to minimum contracts. Patrick McCaw will probably accept his qualifying offer.

David West retired. JaVale McGee signed with the Lakers. Zaza Pachulia signed with the Pistons. Nick Young remains unsigned.

On a team with Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, those players just don’t move the needle much. Golden State was mostly locked into a static summer by virtue of the team’s incredible standing already.

So, it was shocking the Warriors added a potential gamechanger in Cousins. But the biggest moves for Golden State were the ones that didn’t happen elsewhere to threaten its supremacy.

 

Offseason grade: A