It was Toronto’s night. That was obvious early on as the Raptors held the lead for much of the evening Wednesday in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
But if there was any doubt, Fred VanVleet put it to rest. With Golden State fighting back to within 10 in the closing minutes, the Raptors needed a dagger to put the two-time defending champions away. VanVleet’s 28-foot three-pointer with Draymond Green flying at him and the shot clock counting down was it, pushing the lead to 13 with 1:39 to play and prompting Warriors coach Steve Kerr to empty his bench.
Toronto took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with the 123-109 road victory, cutting off any momentum the Warriors may have put together with their own Game 2 road win.
Injuries finally caught up to Golden State, with Klay Thompson joining Kevin Durant on the bench for this one. But honestly, the way the Raptors played, it might not have mattered if both All-Stars were fully healthy and playing.
Toronto flipped the script on Golden State, which is usually the balanced team getting contributions from everyone, while the Raptors have been called a one-man show as they rely on Kawhi Leonard for everything.
In this one, it was Stephen Curry who was the one-man show, scoring a playoff career-high 47 points as well as leading the team in rebounds (eight) and assists (seven). Draymond Green added 17 points, and Andre Iguodala chipped in 11, but there wasn’t much offense after that, as the Warriors shot 39.6 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Toronto was getting contributions from everyone that played, with all five starters scoring in double figures as well as VanVleet off the pine. Leonard had a quietly dominant game, finishing with 30 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.
But the most significant impact on the game was the re-emergence of the Toronto backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Danny Green. Lowry had 23 points and nine assists and played with a moxie that showed the confidence the Raptors had in themselves. Green hit six three-pointers and finished with 18 points but also played solid defense. That defense was contagious, as the Raptors finished with 10 blocks, including six from Serge Ibaka.
Toronto had to have this game. In many game previews and during the television pregame, the phrase “golden opportunity” was used to describe what the Raptors had in front of them if Thompson was sidelined with his hamstring injury for this one.
If Toronto had not won this game, this series would be over. Instead, it’s up in the air. Will Thompson be able to return for Game 4 on Friday night? Will Durant? And will it matter? Toronto may have found its groove in this one, the one that propelled them to four straight wins over a Milwaukee team that had dominated them in the first two contests of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors’ win didn’t win them the NBA title, but it did ensure a much more interesting series going forward.