OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors absorbed a blow on Wednesday night before a shot was even attempted. Coach Steve Kerr, prioritizing caution, decided before Game 3 of the N.B.A. finals that Klay Thompson would not play because of a strained left hamstring.
The Warriors were already missing Kevin Durant (indefinitely) and Kevon Looney (for the rest of the series) because of injuries, and now this? The Warriors are still a powerhouse in search of their fourth championship in five seasons, but they are not immune to sprains and strains, and the collective cost of so many battered body parts is mounting.
The Toronto Raptors took advantage against the Warriors’ depleted lineup, surviving everything that Stephen Curry could throw at them in a 123-109 victory. The Raptors, who took a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series, are two wins from their first title. Game 4 is Friday night at Oracle Arena.
Kawhi Leonard led Toronto with 30 points, while Kyle Lowry finished with 23 points and nine assists. Danny Green shot 6 of 10 from 3-point range to finish with 18 points.
“I think Danny’s buckets boosted our whole team’s confidence,” Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said.
Absent Thompson and Durant, Curry tried to carry the Warriors, setting a career playoff high with 47 points while shooting 14 of 31 from the field. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
“We tried to up our presence on him a little bit with some double teams, but it doesn’t matter, right?” Nurse said. “I mean, my dad used to tell me that stats don’t matter — just the final score. So we’ll take the win and be thankful for that.”
Draymond Green added 17 points for the Warriors.
It remains to be seen whether Golden State will get some reinforcements in time for Game 4, though Kerr did offer a promising update on Durant’s status before Wednesday’s loss. Durant, the star forward who has been sidelined since he strained his right calf on May 8, is expected to scrimmage with teammates and coaches at the Warriors’ practice facility on Thursday.
“That would be the next step,” Kerr said.
As for Thompson, he had lobbied hard to play in Game 3. He even did some pregame shooting as fans began to file into the arena. But Kerr held him out.
“The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out of the rest of the series,” Kerr said after the game. “So that was the decision we made, and I feel very comfortable with it. Never would have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt.”
Shaun Livingston, the veteran guard, started for Thompson. Livingston has been a steadying presence for the Warriors over the last half-decade, but he is not Thompson, and the Warriors struggled without the scoring and the spacing that Thompson usually provides.
Curry knew he would need to take a ton of shots and he obliged, scoring 12 of the Warriors’ first 14 points. He wound up with 17 in the first quarter alone, and the Warriors still trailed by 7. It was not a good sign for Golden State, which was more or less a one-man act. Toronto had far more depth.
The first half was so bleak for the Warriors that the Raptors went scoreless for nearly five minutes of the second quarter yet emerged from the drought with a 13-point lead.
The Warriors rallied after halftime, several times trimming the deficit to single digits. But the Raptors kept responding, and Leonard pushed the lead to 12 with a 3-pointer. Danny Green later drilled a pair of 3-pointers in quick succession, and Golden State — despite Curry’s heroics — could not keep up.
“They played really, really hard and gave it everything they had,” Kerr said of his team, “and just ran into a better team tonight.”
The Warriors had won Game 2 in Toronto to even the series but paid a steep price in the process. Thompson strained his hamstring when he landed awkwardly after attempting a 3-pointer, and Looney, a reserve forward who was playing big minutes off the bench, was lost for the series when he collided with Leonard and sustained an injury near his collarbone.
Thompson’s absence was both problematic and unprecedented. Thompson had never missed a postseason game for the Warriors — playing 120 over the last seven seasons.
On Wednesday, his streak ended as the Raptors took another step toward a huge achievement of their own.