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5 Clutch Points: Warriors squander Stephen Curry’s 47-point gem in Game 3 loss to Raptors

A shorthanded Golden State Warriors team took a 123-109 loss in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, as the Toronto Raptors filled their cup from beyond the arc, ultimately putting the game out of reach, despite Stephen Curry’s 47-point masterpiece.

The defending champions are facing plenty of questions, even beyond the health of two of their best players.

These are 5 Clutch Points of Game 3 of the NBA Finals:

Flushing a 47-point game like it never happened

The Warriors had no option but to put Stephen Curry in overdrive mode to have a chance at sniffing victory, and the Finals MVP aspirant responded, pouring in 47 points in a losing effort.

While this bodes well for his case to win the much-eluded award, Golden State would have to come out on top at the end of these NBA Finals to make it salvageable.

The Warriors needed strong support from the bench and some perimeter help to pull this game off, but they got neither, as Curry accounted for half of the team’s 12 3-pointers and assisted in two.

It was clear from the start that Curry’s usage rate would go through the roof, as he accounted for 24 of his team’s first 29 points in the first quarter, not being any different throughout the rest of the game.

Curry finished the first quarter with 17 points, doing most of the heavy lifting to keep the Warriors in the game, but the Warriors could only give him three minutes of rest in the second quarter after going down double digits for the sixth straight playoff game, dating back to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The two-time MVP was forced to reimagine his 2015-16 heroics, drilling shots like this one over a double team of Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. He would finish with 25 at the half, the most he’s scored in a half of an NBA Finals game.

Yet the All-NBA point guard was unable to get the right help from the perimeter, as the other Warriors scuffled a 6-of-22 performance that just proved too little to contend with the Raptors’ perimeter barrage.

Curry put up an all-time great performance, considering all the defensive attention was focused on him, but this is one the Warriors will have to put quickly behind them if they hope to turn things around.

A barrage of threes

Despite being obviously undermanned, the Warriors also committed one of the cardinal sins against this Raptors team, allowing them to rain down 17 3-pointers against them. While Golden State limited Toronto’s fast break attack (18-16 in the Raptors’ favor), it was a dangerous 17-of-38 clip (44.7%) that hurt the Warriors, creating a 15-point differential that essentially narrows down the loss.

The Warriors constantly converged in the middle to contain penetration, leaving two of the Raptors’ X-factors wide open to fire in Kyle Lowry and Danny Green.

Lowry had undoubtedly his best game of the series, scoring 23 points while shooting 5-of-9 from deep, while Green also found the groove, starting 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, before converting only one of his last four attempts from deep.

Once he had cooled off, the difference was already made and the Warriors were trailing by double digits.

More that any other shot, the corner three is one that hurt the Warriors the most, as they gave up many open looks by helping on drives and putting themselves out of position to properly contest shooters.

Couple that with yet another Kawhi Leonard 30-point game, and that spells disaster for a team trying to hold it together until healthier legs return to the court.

Cousins’ no-show

After a crucial collarbone injury sidelined Kevon Looney for the rest of the postseason, the Warriors were forced to count on DeMarcus Cousins for another impactful game, similar to his Game 2 performance.

That was perhaps too much to ask for.

At least for a center coming back from injury which had shown the propensity to have highs and lows upon his awaited return in the regular season.

Cousins had shown this earlier this year, putting up 25 points and eight rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers, then struggling to find the basket the next game against the Boston Celtics, going away from the paint and venturing to the perimeter, where he went 0-for-5 — finishing with only 10 points in a blowout loss.

The same could be said about Game 3 on Wednesday — Cousins was unsure of the right plan of attack, often finding himself as the facilitator instead of the initiator, giving Marc Gasol a massive advantage defending him.

Besides being fouled on a 3-point attempt and converting two of the three free-throws, Cousins’ contributions were that of a role player — four points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal and three turnovers — a glaring minus-12 in 19 minutes of action.

The Warriors can’t afford to have a struggling Cousins at this stage of the game, but now they have no option but to cross their fingers and pray he’s determined to attack, without Looney to back him up or any other capable big of kickstarting his own offensive game.

Cousins was a ghastly 1-of-7 from the floor and 2-of-3 from the foul line, providing very little support against a good Raptors defense that limited the Warriors below 40% shooting for the game.

That will need to change if the Warriors are to have a chance in this series.

Awaiting results

Thursday will prove to be perhaps the most important day of the Warriors’ season, as much hinges on what the Warriors can yield in the next 24 hours.

Klay Thompson, who missed Game 3 with a pulled hamstring — the first playoff absence of his NBA career — is now expected to return for Game 4, as the Warriors played the long game and sat him out in hopes to have a healthier Thompson returning with additional time to nurse his injury.

Yet the biggest question remains Kevin Durant’s return after missing nearly an entire month with a strained calf, which the Warriors listed as “mild” at the time — (quick check: it’s not).

Head coach Steve Kerr has wanted Durant to practice before rejoining the team on the court, but as former player Richard Jefferson noted on Tuesday’s edition of ESPN’s The Jump, there is hardly any practice at this stage of the game, when bodies will need every ounce of foul left in their bodies to survive a long postseason.

Instead, what the Warriors are expecting is for Durant to engage on three-on-three and five-on-five on-court work, testing sprints, jumps, cuts, and his share of physical contact before he is deemed ready to play.

Durant will also likely have to go through a walkthrough, detailing how he will be deployed in the rotation, as it could differ from the heavy minutes he played in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets.

Now down 2-1 in the series and having lost the home court advantage they gained in Game 2, a lot hinges on these results — though expect Kerr to be forthcoming, yet poker-like in revealing his superstar’s status in the coming days.

Mr. No Excuses

Draymond Green was prompted with the prospect of resting Thompson for Game 3 in hopes to play the long game, but he was quick to note the Warriors didn’t sacrifice this game in favor of Game 4, saying every game matters. Yet he wouldn’t make any excuses, knowing no one is feeling sorry for a championship-laden team that has dominated the Western Conference in the last five seasons.

“No one cares if guys are hurt. Everybody wants to see us lose,” said Green after a 123-109 Game 3 loss, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “So I’m sure people are happy they’re hurt.”

“We can sit and talk about the injuries until we’re blue in the face. It’s not going to change how Kevin’s calf feels or how Looney — what’s it called? Some costal cartilage fracture, something like that. It’s not going to make that feel better. And it ain’t going to make Klay’s hamstring feel better, either.

“So it is what it is. With the guys we got out there, we got to roll with it. We fought tonight. We lost. We’re going to fight again. I don’t really see us losing too many more, though.”

Despite the fighting the odds and the slew of injuries they’ve faced through this postseason, Green remained forever the confident optimist, relaying his plan of attack:

“Win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6 and then celebrate,” he said. “Fun times ahead.”

If it is as peachy as Green paints it to be, the Warriors could have a fairy tale ending to their 2018-19 season, playing their last game ever in Oracle Arena and closing out the NBA Finals in bombastic fashion, full of confetti and among a loyal fan base to cherish it.