Raptors handle Warriors in Game 4 to move within victory of first NBA title

The Toronto Raptors have accomplished the improbable, beating the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors twice on their home court to push them to the brink of elimination.

With a 105-92 win in Friday night’s Game 4 of the NBA finals, the Raptors took a commanding 3-1 series lead. They are now one win away from the franchise’s first ever championship, while the powerhouse Warriors’ season dangles by a thread.

Toronto broke it open during a stunning third quarter. Kawhi Leonard (36 points and 12 rebounds) nailed back-to-back three-pointers in the opening minute of the second-half to give the Raptors their first lead of the game, 48-46. The Raptors went on to outscore the Warriors 37-21 in the period, turning an 11-point first-quarter deficit into a 13-point third quarter advantage, a 24-point reversal. The Raptors outshot the Warriors, 54.5% to 35% in the period. And they made five of their seven three-point attempts, after shooting a dismal 2-for-17 from beyond the arc in the first half.

“Kawhi’s two big threes to start the half really I thought changed the whole feel of everybody,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I just thought everybody was like, ‘OK, man, we know we are here. Let’s go.’ And we just kind of kept going.”

The shellshocked Warriors cut their hole to eight points with just under three minutes left after Stephen Curry made a three-pointer, but they couldn’t complete the comeback. The Warriors, so famous for their third-quarter pushes, finally got a taste of their own medicine.

“It sucks really bad,” said Draymond Green, who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. “You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum. Every time we did, they answered.”

It was a surprising turn of events considering the Raptors struggled from the get-go, with Leonard scoring 14 of the team’s 17 first-quarter points. The rest of the Raptors were a dismal 1-for-13 from the field in the first 12 minutes.

The Warriors bench takes in their second home loss in two games
The Warriors bench takes in their second home loss in two games. Photograph: Ben Margot/AP

But the Raptors managed to stay in the game despite shooting 34.1% from the field in the first half, entering halftime trailing by just four points, 46-42. The Warriors greatly helped them along the way, notching 10 turnovers during the period, en route to a woeful 19 in the game.

“I had faith that it was going to turn around for us,” Leonard said. “We were missing a lot of wide-open shots.”

Leonard led the Raptors with a NBA finals career-high 36 points on 11-for-22 shooting, including making five of his nine three-point shots. He also had 12 rebounds and four steals. Serge Ibaka had 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting and two blocked shots. Pascal Siakam added 19 points.

Fred VanVleet had a bit of a scare after getting inadvertently elbowed in the face by Shaun Livingston with 9:35 left. VanVleet laid on the court for a few moments bleeding with a cut under his right eye. He went on to have seven stitches and was cleared to return. He did not suffer a concussion. Klay Thompson, who missed Game 3 because of a left hamstring sprain that he sustained in Game 2, returned for Game 4. He opened the game with 14 points in 16 minutes on six-for-nine shooting. Normally even-keeled and understated, Thompson couldn’t help losing himself in celebration after making a turnaround jumper with 3:48 left in the first half to put the Warriors up, 42-34. He pointed his finger toward the floor while emphatically nodding his head and even made an obscene gesture with his hands while running downcourt.

But the Raptors went on to spoil his return, despite him finishing with a team-high 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 6-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Stephen Curry had 27 points, but it took him 22 shots to get them.

Kevon Looney (right 1st costal cartilage non-displaced fracture) also returned in Game 4 after he was initially ruled out for the rest of the finals after sustaining the injury in Game 2. He gave the Warriors a boost off the bench with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

Kevin Durant missed his ninth straight playoff game because of a right calf strain. Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said he’s hopeful that he’ll return in Game 5 or 6 – if there is one.

It was an emotional, frenetic contest with nine lead changes. But the Raptors got the best of the experienced Warriors, and they did it in a dramatic fashion in front of a hostile crowd.

Now they’re just one game away from making history.


Melissa Rohlin at Oracle Arena, Oakland

The GuardianTramp

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