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The Toronto Raptors have a huge opportunity to compound their advantage over the Golden State Warriors in game four of the NBA Finals.
The Raptors enjoyed an excellent start to the series by taking the opening game on home soil to set the tone. Nick Nurse’s men were up at half-time in game two, but allowed their lead to slip as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson drove Golden State back into the contest.
However, the victory came at a cost as Thompson suffered a hamstring injury, joining Kevin Durant on the sidelines. Without two of their star players, the Warriors were vulnerable even at Oracle Arena in game three. There was pressure on Raptors to capitalise on the absences of the two All-Stars and they produced a fine performance to retake the ascendancy in the Finals.
Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Danny Green were all on form to take the game to the Warriors. They were able to control proceedings from the off, spreading the ball around the court to ease their way to a comfortable victory, despite a 47-point effort from Curry.
The game was not without incident as Lowry was involved in a spat with Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens after falling into the crowd. Stevens will be banned from the stands for the rest of the Finals. The incident will spice up the Finals further, beginning with game four, with Golden State waiting on the fitness on Durant and Thompson for the showdown.
The Warriors are ailing without the presence of Thompson and Durant on the court. Both players have been integral to the success of the club, but they were forced to watch their team-mates struggle without their impact. Curry attempted to carry the load on his own, taking an astounding 31 shots from the field. He put 47 points on the board in a brilliant performance, scoring nearly half of his side’s points in the game.
However, he lacked the support from the rest of the fit players on the court. Draymond Green managed to break into double figures, while Andre Iguodala also edged his way to 11 points. They were the only players outside of Curry to contribute as DeMarcus Cousins was off form along with Shaun Livingston and Quinn Cook. Cousins is working his way back from injury, highlighting the Warriors’ issues with the fitness of their roster at this stage of the campaign.
Even Curry has had problems maintaining his health throughout the season. Steve Kerr’s men need Thompson fit and firing for game three to ease the burden on Curry. He and Curry together were able to manoeuvre the ball around the court to wear down the Raptors in game two before using their deadly accuracy. Without him Golden State were one dimensional, especially without the power of Durant. The Warriors may have to wait longer for the return of Durant, but it’s vital they keep themselves in the contest with a strong performance in game four. With or without two of their key players, Kerr needs to conjure a brilliant display from his team.
The Raptors had to bounce back from their defeat in game two and they rose to the occasion on the road to regain their advantage. Toronto started the series with a fine performance in game one, putting the Warriors under pressure. Leonard, Siakam and Marc Gasol were operating at the peak of their powers, putting over 20 points apiece on the board.
All of the attention has been on Leonard in the Finals. He has performed to a high level at both ends of the court. Leonard has been the difference for the Raptors throughout the playoffs. His experience and ability to make clutch plays has been at the forefront of their success. The 27-year-old demands the ball when his team need him the most. More often than not he has been able to deliver, while the focus he has drawn from the Warriors has allowed others to star.
Siakam has been excellent in the Finals, displaying a high level of efficiency. The 25-year-old has eased the pressure on Leonard, ensuring that the All-Star has not been forced to carry their threat alone. Lowry enjoyed his best game of the Finals last time out, putting 23 points up at Oracle Arena.
He will be further galvanised by his incident with Golden State’s minority and should be able to maintain his standards in Oakland. Nurse’s men were handed a huge boost by Thompson’s injury in game three and could be handed another chance to play the Warriors without him and Durant. Another victory would take the Raptors within touching distance of their first NBA Championship. They cannot afford not to seize the initiative.
So much hinges on the fitness of Thompson and Durant for the Warriors entering game four. Even if both players are back in the line-up there are doubts over how effective they will be on the court.
Given the importance of the game, Kerr may have to risk at least one of his star players to avoid a two-game deficit going back to Toronto, where the Raptors could take the title on home soil. Golden State have to strike back immediately.
Nurse’s side are healthy and have been balanced, easing the burden on Leonard to perform. He has played good basketball thus far, but there’s a special performance waiting to emerge in the Finals. The 27-year-old has the ability to take over the game with a 40-point outing to put his team on the brink of the title.
After his 47-point outing Curry may be feeling the effects of his team on the court. The Raptors will not have many better opportunities to take a huge stride towards the crown. Back them to win game four at odds of 17/10 2.70 +170 1.70 1.70 -0.59 with BetOnline and take the value for them to see out the series at 4/5 1.80 -125 0.80 -1.25 0.80 with TopBet.
Toronto Raptors To Beat Golden State Warriors NBA Finals Game Four
Friday 7th June 2019 21:00 EST (Saturday 8th June 2019 02:00 BST)
Odds: 17/10 2.70 +170 1.70 1.70 -0.59
Toronto Raptors To Win NBA Championship
Odds: 4/5 1.80 -125 0.80 -1.25 0.80
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