The Golden State Warriors started hot but ultimately ran out of gas, late in Friday night's Game 4, suffering a heartbreaking defeat 105-92 at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.
Hopes were high and spirits were up in Oracle Arena, ahead of the game, after fans found out that both Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney would be coming back from their injuries. Thompson, who had injured his hamstring late in Game 2, was fully expected to be available, while Looney had initially been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason. However, after receiving a second opinion, Kevon was given the go-ahead to suit up for Game 4.
Golden State came out with a ton of energy in the first quarter, going up by as many as 11, en route to a strong 25-17 opening period. Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney both looked as though they had been chomping at the bit to return to game action, as the two of them immediately paid dividends with their play on both sides of the court.
Thompson was the team's main offensive catalyst throughout the entire game, often times carrying the Dubs through tough dry spells, and later keeping them within striking distance of the visiting Raptors. Looney was especially helpful due to the fact that starting center DeMarcus Cousins, playing in just his sixth career playoff game (four of which in these NBA Finals), was woefully ineffective, coughing up turnovers on offense and lacking the requisite intensity on defense needed to stop Toronto from getting points in the paint.
All of the flaws aside, and Curry struggling from behind the arc in the first half, Golden State still found themselves clinging to a 46-42 lead at the half. Though, with how awful the Raptors had been shooting in the first half (32.6%), the Warriors must have felt that they should have been leading by at least double digits. Yet, Golden State's mistakes and Toronto's made free-throws kept the score close. By the end of the game, the Warriors had committed 17 turnovers to the Raptors' nine. The final tally on free-throws stood at: Golden State 14-21 (66.7%) and Toronto 23-24 (95.8%).
The Raptors had a huge third quarter, much in the style of the Warriors' usual blitz, outscoring the defending champs 37-21 and taking a commanding 79-67 lead into the fourth. The Warriors showed mettle in the final period, fighting tough until the end, but the Raptors were firing on all-cylinders til the end. Kawhi continued to hit big shots, finishing with a game-high 36 points on 11-22 shooting (5-9 3pt), also adding 12 rebounds and four steals in a true MVP-caliber effort. Reserve big man Serge Ibaka came up huge for Toronto, giving his team excellent offensive and defensive energy off the bench, scoring 20 points and being a premium disruptor in the paint, blocking two shots and altering countless others.
For the Warriors, outside of Klay, Steph Curry, and Looney, there was little offensive contribution to speak of. The offense looked pretty anemic throughout much of the game, besides their adrenaline-fueled first quarter flurry. Thompson finished with a team-high 28 points on 11-18 shooting (6-10 3pt), while Curry fought for 27 points on 9-22 from the floor (2-9 3pt) and 7-8 from the free-throw line. Looney was big off the bench, relegating Cousins to being a second half spectator, on his way to a solid showing: 10 points and six rebounds on 5-8 shooting in 20 minutes.
Down 3-1, Golden State knows they have their work cut out for them, especially considering the fact that they must win the remaining possible three games of the series – two of which will be up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Golden State was able to overcome a 3-1 series deficit, facing Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, back in the 2015-16 Western Conference Finals. On the flipside, they've also lost a 3-1 series lead, as most Dubs fans have probably tried to forget, in the very next series: the 2016 Finals versus LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers. It is possible. The Warriors have done it, and they certainly have the grit and talent to achieve such a comeback. However, they will be facing a confident and formidable Raptor team, anxious to bring a championship trophy home to Canada.
Game 5 is scheduled for Monday, June 10th, at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.