For the first time in the Finals, the Warriors managed to have a significant advantage in shot attempts yesterday. After taking just 78 and 81 stabs at the basket in their stints at Scotiabank Arena, they came away with a whopping 91 in Game Three. If nothing else, it was indicative of their conscious effort to dictate the pace to their liking. Unfortunately, they couldn’t translate it to actual production; with Klay Thompson joining Kevin Durant in the sidelines, they had only Steph Curry to rely on for points. And as much as they moved the ball and strive to find open shots, their depleted lineup told on their capacity to make the most of their opportunities.
Injuries are part of competition in the National Basketball Association, to be sure, and the Warriors can’t complain about their handicaps in this regard. Even the Raptors are ailing, albeit clearly not enough to compel the absence of vital cogs. That said, Thompson’s unavailability told on the hosts’ competitiveness. He could have been a critical release valve in the face of the extra attention Curry received as their lone shot creator. And, yes, his exertions on the other end of the court were missed at least as much; not for nothing did the visitors wind up canning 17 of 38 three-point attempts and shooting 52.4% from the field overall.
Needless to say, the Warriors will have to do much, much better tomorrow (June 8). Should Durant continue to be decommissioned and Thompson require more time to convalesce from his hamstring injury, they will need to find others to backstop Curry’s production and, at the same time, come up with schemes that limit his failings on defense. Having lost homecourt advantage in Game Three, the next match is simply about setting up the chance to reclaim it in Game Five.
True, the Warriors are in a position of weakness for the first time since they began their dynastic trek half a decade ago. It isn’t simply because they’re down one to two against the determined Raptors. It’s because they have to climb out of the hole at less than full strength. En route to the best-of-Seven series, one of the points of discussion making the rounds in hoops circles involved Curry’s failure to be named Finals Most Valuable Player in any of their three previous runs to the title. He now has occasion to stake a claim to the honor — by default, perhaps, but no less momentous. And if they do go on to wrap their arms around their fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy in five years, he will be the reason, and he will have earned it.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.