NBA Finals 2019

Thompson's return crucial

Golden State's Klay Thompson during practice at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. With Kevin Durant out for Game 4, the two-time defending NBA champions badly require the guard's presence on both ends.
Golden State's Klay Thompson during practice at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. With Kevin Durant out for Game 4, the two-time defending NBA champions badly require the guard's presence on both ends. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Warriors must end over-reliance on Curry in bid to level Finals series against Raptors

OAKLAND (California) • The Toronto Raptors can move within one win of their first National Basketball Association title, but they will likely see different-looking opponents in Game 4 of the NBA Finals this morning (Singapore time).

The Golden State Warriors, who trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, are hoping to get Klay Thompson back in action at the Oracle Arena.

The hot-shooting Raptors, with all five starters scoring in double figures in Game 3 on Wednesday, easily overcame the hosts' one-man attack, Stephen Curry's 47-point explosion, in their 123-109 win.

With or without Thompson, who strained his left hamstring late in Game 2 at Toronto and sat out on Wednesday, the two-time defending champions have scored exactly 109 points each in all three games.

The outcomes have hinged on Toronto's shooting accuracy. In their Game 2 loss, they were held to 37.2 per cent from the field and 28.9 per cent on three-pointers, while putting up just 104 points.

They have sandwiched that performance by hitting better than 50 per cent from the field (50.6 per cent in Game 1 and 52.4 per cent in Game 3) in their two wins, brilliant shooting nights that have included 39.4 per cent and 44.7 per cent accuracy from beyond the arc.

ALL-ROUND VIGILANCE

But we still have to do a better job defensively... so we don't have to rely on our offence or our shooting to win games.

DANNY GREEN, Toronto guard, on the Raptors' need to defend better. They have been dependent on their shooting accuracy to secure their two wins so far.

"We haven't really had a good team shooting night, and I knew eventually at some point we were due for one," Toronto guard Danny Green said after going six for 10 on three -point attempts in Game 3.

"But we still have to do a better job defensively on that end of the floor to limit those guys better, so we don't have to rely on our offence or our shooting to win games."

In a remarkable display of consistency, all seven Raptors who took a shot in Game 3 made at least half of their attempts.

Kawhi Leonard led the way with 30 points, joining six others who have 13 or more 30-point games in the post-season. They are Michael Jordan (four times), Kobe Bryant (two times), LeBron James (two times), Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson.

Golden State are badly in need of consistent scorers themselves instead of relying on Curry.

But coach Steve Kerr announced on Thursday that star forward Kevin Durant, who has not played since the Western Conference semi-finals owing to a calf injury, also would miss Game 4.

Re-enter Thompson, who was given a thumbs-up after a workout and examination on Thursday.

He was the team's leading scorer in the Game 2 win with 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting, which tells only half the story.

As Curry noted: "The way that our team plays defensively and the chemistry that we have, he's right at the forefront of that.

"So you would love to have him out there on that end of the floor as well, especially with a team like Toronto, who is versatile and can space the floor. He can guard a lot of different guys."

Durant did not have a setback. But Kerr said that the two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, who is still second in play-off points on the team to only Curry, 376 to 541, had not been cleared for scrimmage work.

"The hope would be that he could still make it back at the end of the series," Kerr added.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline 'Thompson's return crucial'. Print Edition | Subscribe