Here are some takeaways from Game 3, where Toronto took a 2-1 series lead:
The Raptors had six players in double figures, all seven players who attempted a field goal shot 50 percent or better, and Toronto became just the second Finals team in the last 20 years to see all five starters score at least 15 points. The Warriors, meanwhile, had one player account for 43 percent of their scoring, as Curry's 47 points marked the eighth-highest scoring game in Finals history.
With Klay Thompson joining Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney on the sidelines, Curry had no choice but to go at it himself on the offensive end. The Raptors were predictably sharper and more attentive defending cutters and non-Curry Warriors than they were in Game 2, and never resorted to the type of "janky," box-and-one defense that stunned Golden State down the stretch of Sunday's contest.
Instead, the Raptors actually appeared to play Curry a little more straight up on-ball, with Fred VanVleet and Danny Green spending the majority of time guarding Curry after Kyle Lowry started the game on him. Still, Toronto went so far as top-blocking Curry to keep the ball away from him, sent secondary bodies at him, and consistently stayed up on screens, daring anybody but the two-time MVP to beat them.
That Curry was able to produce 47 points on 40 possessions despite all of that attention from an elite defense shouldn't be surprising given his transcendent offensive talents, but it was still remarkable - and exhausting - to watch.
No other Warrior was up to the task, as Curry's teammates combined to shoot 36.6 percent from the field and 27.2 percent from 3-point range. Save for a few exceptions out of timeouts, Golden State's off-ball movement didn't provide playmakers like Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, or Andre Iguodala the same opportunities for assists they had in Game 2, either.
Kawhi Leonard led the way on the other end with 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting, but the Raptors' offense was far more diversified.
Lowry was aggressive shooting the ball, Pascal Siakam got more of his half-court offense from cuts and off-ball movement than he usually would, and Green made more 3-pointers (six) than he has in any playoff game in three years while attempting more triples (10) than he has in any playoff game in five years.
In addition, the Raptors clearly made Marc Gasol's offensive contributions an early priority, testing Cousins' defensive mobility in a way they hadn't before.
Toronto's offense flowed through Gasol a ton to start the game, and the veteran big man did a lot more rolling off screens than we've seen from him in some time. Those decisive rolls on the catch led to some uncharacteristically loud finishes at the rim for Gasol, and to kickout assists to open shooters in the corners. More importantly, those rolls forced Cousins to defend in space, which both he and the Warriors paid for.
Cousins, who was only playing in his third game back since a quad injury sidelined him for six weeks, was a minus-12 in 19 minutes of Game 3 action and was forced to the locker room for treatment late in the fourth quarter.
Thompson's absence left an obvious void offensively and placed a greater burden on Curry, but the Warriors also desperately missed the All-Star's defensive presence.
Golden State found success in the second half of Game 2 with Thompson guarding Leonard, Iguodala sliding over to contain Siakam, and Green hounding Lowry at the point of attack. Without Thompson in Game 3, Green was often tasked with stopping Leonard, which impacted his ability to roam as a help defender and allowed Lowry to get going. When Iguodala took on the Leonard matchup, Siakam seemed to break free again, and the Warriors had to turn to Andrew Bogut's post defense to slow him down.
The matchup issues, and the defensive miscues they wrought, lasted all night, as even Curry found himself trapped on an island guarding Leonard in the post at times in the second half. Some of those miscues are a testament to the Raptors' attack, but a lot of it had to do with Thompson's absence leaving the Warriors with one less answer defensively.
Even in a loss, Nick Nurse's box-and-one was the standout defensive adjustment of Game 2. On Wednesday night at Oracle, Nurse called a more subtle yet equally astute audible, replacing Green with Fred VanVleet in the second-half starting lineup.
Green has done a tremendous job guarding Curry off-ball, but VanVleet has literally defended Curry better than anyone else in the Association this season, and Green entered the second half with three fouls. The move allowed VanVleet and the Raptors to guard Curry more aggressively than Green would've been able to at the start of the third quarter - when he and the Warriors are most dangerous - and allowed the hot-shooting Green to come in later in the quarter without the same threat of foul trouble looming over him.
NBA coaches often avoid making necessary changes when things are rolling; think Mike Budenholzer waiting until Game 5 to start Malcolm Brogdon rather than doing it with his team up early in the East finals. But it's this type of proactive move, with his team up eight at the half, that's earned Nurse his reputation as an innovator who thinks outside the box.
It feels like this same blurb has been written at some point in all four of the Raptors' playoff series, but Lowry's determination to bounce back from an ugly performance set the tone for Toronto in this one.
Lowry scored just 20 points on 6-of-20 shooting combined through the first two games of the Finals, publicly stated he needed to be more aggressive in Game 3, then went out and dropped 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go with nine assists, four rebounds, a steal, and a block in his game-high 43:22 of action.
As VanVleet told me last week, the Raptors go as Lowry goes, so it was no surprise that the team's offense operated with a better force and purpose on a night when Lowry pressed the issue from Toronto's opening possession. Lowry drew a foul on Shaun Livingston in the paint 24 seconds into the game, sunk a pair of free throws to open the scoring, and the Raptors were off and running.
From there, Lowry continued to probe the paint and ask questions of the Warriors' defense, attempted more 3-pointers (nine) than he had in his previous six games, and drew more fouls (seven) than any other Raptor.
"He's such a smart basketball player and he controls a lot of the pace for them," Curry said of Lowry's performance Wednesday night. "Nights where he gets it going scoring-wise, he can make it tough on you because they do have a lot of weapons around and they like to space the floor. He has the ball in his hands a lot as a distributor, but when he can turn it on, putting the ball in the basket, it's just that much tougher."
After committing 11 fouls in the first two games, Lowry was also able to better channel his aggression on the defensive end in Game 3, finishing with only three.
"No one cares if guys are hurt. Everybody wants to see us lose, so I'm sure people are happy they're hurt. We've just got to continue to battle and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6, and then celebrate. Fun times ahead." - Draymond Green, who moments later said he doesn't see the Warriors losing many more games in this series.
While mathematically the Warriors can't lose more than two additional games, anyway, Green's confidence could stem from him knowing something about the return of Thompson and Durant that we don't.
Until their wounded stars return, the Warriors' health remains the most important storyline to follow. If one or both of Thompson and Durant miss at least another game, the Raptors have the horses to end Golden State's season quickly. If the Warriors somehow return to full health by Friday, it's not that far-fetched to see Golden State winning out.
1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Stephen Curry
3. Pascal Siakam