By Ponciano Melo Jr.
OAKLAND, California — The Warriors cast was nearly complete albeit for former NBA MVP Kevin Durant on the floor, but the maiden trophy-seeking Toronto Raptors still came out on top to make it one game less towards a date with destiny.
With all-star Klay Thompson making his return after missing his first-ever playoff game due to an injury, and Kevon Looney receiving green light despite fracturing his collarbone, the Golden State looked to bounce back from the unlikely defeat on their home floor, only to spoil a single-digit lead in the first half and eventually bowing to the hungry Raptors from Canada.
Toronto denied the two-game home court advantage at the Oracle Arena with a 105-92 takeaway Saturday, to lead the series 3-1, one more triumph could mean they win it all.
Kawhi Leonard was once again spectacular, putting a game-high 36 points and 11 rebounds including 17 third quarter points that changed the complexion of the game in its entirety at that point.
“Kawhi’s two big threes to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let’s go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two threes,” rookie head coach Nick Nurse said after the game.
Leonard also got a boost from Serge Ibaka, who poured 20 points off the bench and Pascal Siakam with 19 markers to claw their way back overcoming a misfiring first half to deal the Warriors its first back-to-back home court defeat in the Finals.
Kyle Lowry as well had 10 points while Fred VanVleet, who lost a tooth and walked off a bloodied face in the fourth quarter after receiving an inadvertent elbow, added eight points with six dimes.
The splash brothers, Thompson and Stephen Curry’s, 28 and 26 points respectively were put to waste due to the swarming defense and excellent pick-and-roll plays by the Raptors.
Head coach Steve Kerr, however, stayed defiant with their backs against the wall in a familiar, but not-so-good, 1-3 series deficit.
“We have got to lick our wounds tonight. It’s a tough loss,” he said.
“We’re not thinking about winning three games. We’re thinking about winning one game, and that’s the task. I know we’re capable.”
The service of the former MVP Kevin Durant will greatly help the Warriors’ cause but that’s if he will be available to play already in Game 5.
Durant’s return in game 4 was once again ruled out for the ninth-straight playoff game as his right calf injury recovery has now lasted longer than expected, the team says.
The Raptors will have the chance to finally end the Warriors dynasty and record a first NBA title in Canada come game 5 to be played in Toronto.