Barber: Warriors waste Stephen Curry’s 47 points in 123-109 loss to Raptors
OAKLAND — What would it look like if Stephen Curry were set free on offense? What would it look like if the two-time MVP didn’t share the court with other All-Stars, if he were given free rein to dribble and drive and shoot to his heart’s content?
It would probably look a lot like the Warriors’ 123-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday.
Against the Raptors, Curry discovered what it’s like to be Mitch Richmond with the 1980s Kings or Paul Pierce with the pre-Big Three Celtics or LeBron James with the modern-day Lakers. Curry poured in 47 points, eighth most ever in an NBA Finals game, and second most by a losing player in the Finals (behind only LeBron James’ 51 against the Warriors a year earlier).
It was a hollow achievement, because the Warriors wasted Curry’s brilliance and now trail Toronto 2-1.
You figured scoring would be a problem for the Warriors in this one. Kevin Durant was averaging 34.2 points in the postseason, best in the NBA, when he pulled his calf muscle on May 8. He hasn’t played since. Center Kevon Looney, who usually chips in with 5 to 10 points, is out with an injury to his sternum. And Klay Thompson, the Warriors’ third scoring option, except when he ignites and becomes the first option, also was unavailable Wednesday.
Speculation ran rampant all day that Thompson, who strained his hamstring in Game 2 on Sunday, would play in Game 3. But he didn’t take the court for pregame warmups, and never got out of his warmup suit during the contest. This competitive series figures to go deep, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr simply couldn’t risk Thompson making his injury worse.
So even before Game 3 tipped off, this was shaping up to be a performance of Curry and the Interchangeables. And as we were about to find out, the Warriors would be even more one-dimensional than expected.
Just look at the Raptors for contrast. Every single one of their starters scored at least 17 points, and Fred VanVleet scored 11 off the bench. That’s six players in double figures. Danny Green, whose disappearance against Milwaukee was a source of much consternation for Toronto, nailed six 3-pointers and helped swing the game. Point guard Kyle Lowry, who averaged 10 points in the first two games, scored 23 and hit five treys.
When the points are distributed like that, it makes a team hard to defend. And sure enough, Toronto wound up shooting 52.4% from the field, and a scorching 44.7% from the 3-point line.
The Warriors displayed no such egalitarianism. They got that 47-point barrage from Curry, and Draymond Green chipped in with 17, and it was slim pickings after that. Andre Iguodala was third on the team with 11 points.
The Warriors needed more than that with Durant and Thompson out. They needed a big game out of center DeMarcus Cousins. He had sparked a lot of optimism with a strong performance in Game 2, when he racked up 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 27 minutes. If Cousins could dial it up another notch, it might fill some of the vacuum. He couldn’t. He scored four points on 1-of-7 shooting and was given fewer minutes than Andrew Bogut.