TORONTO • The Golden State Warriors were dangling over the precipice, juggling mounting injury issues and struggling to get much of anything from Stephen Curry.
There were red flags everywhere for the two-time defending champions in Sunday's Game 2 of the National Basketball Association Finals.
Curry missed his first six shots, DeMarcus Cousins committed two early fouls after making a surprise start, Andre Iguodala left the game before half-time following a nasty collision, and reserve Kevon Looney suffered a chest contusion that ended his night early.
The Toronto Raptors were in control and appeared to be on the verge of taking a 2-0 series lead, a deficit the Warriors have never faced in coach Steve Kerr's five-year tenure.
But just as Golden State pulled together after losing Kevin Durant to a leg injury in the second round of the play-offs, they delivered another classic response by reeling off a crowd-silencing, 18-0 run to open the third quarter.
At the end, they claimed a 109-104 victory to seize home-court advantage and tally a road win in their 23rd consecutive play-off series, with an Iguodala dagger of a three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left thwarting Toronto's final push.
The hosts gambled by opting not to guard the forward, who had gone one-of-14 from beyond the arc before his decisive shot, and the 2015 Finals Most Valuable Player made Nick Nurse's players pay for the "disrespect".
Draymond Green felt it was a case of his Warriors teammate simply "putting the icing on the cake at several wins". Of Iguodala, who scored all eight of his points in the second half after the clash with Marc Gasol, Kerr added: "(He's) got a lot of experience, he's done everything in his career, he's been in the Olympics, he's won three rings, he's been an All-Star, he knows how to play.
"One of the smartest players I've ever been around. He sensed that we needed his production in that second half and he came alive."
If not for Klay Thompson, who suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter and did not return, Golden State may not have been in position to rally from a 12-point second-quarter deficit.
The five-time All-Star scored a team-high 25 points, including 18 in the first half as the Warriors' attack wheezed around him. And the guard led the defensive ring around Kawhi Leonard, who had a game-high 34 points, in the third quarter as the Raptors were held without a field goal for 6min 22sec.
Three of the team's Game 1 heroes regressed significantly - Pascal Siakam finished with 12 points, and Gasol and Danny Green had a total of 14 points.
Kerr was rewarded for starting Cousins, who scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds - critical contributions with Looney and Thompson unable to play down the stretch.
"He was great," Kerr said, referring to Cousins. "We came in thinking maybe he can play 20 minutes. We needed everything he gave out there. His rebounding, toughness, physical presence, getting the ball in the paint - we needed all of that."
Cousins' presence will again be needed for Game 3 in Oakland, tomorrow.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST