TORONTO — The Golden State Warriors drastically changed their starting lineup for Sunday night’s Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals, missed 24 of their first 33 shots, sank into an early double-digit deficit and lost two more key contributors to injury.
The Warriors also managed to overcome all of that to do what they seemingly always do: The two-time defending champions won a road game in the playoffs for the 23rd successive series.
Flummoxed for a game and a half by the Toronto Raptors’ physical defense, Golden State swung back in a big way by smothering the Raptors to score the first 18 points of the second half and abruptly snatch the momentum from the hosts in a 109-104 victory that evened these finals at one game apiece.
The Warriors held the Raptors scoreless for nearly six minutes to start the third quarter to briefly silence and ultimately disappoint Toronto’s rabid following at Scotiabank Arena. The series resumes Wednesday night at Golden State’s Oracle Arena, where the superstar forward Kevin Durant is expected to return in Wednesday’s Game 3 or Friday night’s Game 4.
After Andre Iguodala’s 3-pointer from the left wing in the final seconds to seal the victory after Toronto drew within 2 points, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said: “I thought his play in the second half was really inspiring at both ends. He did a fantastic job. He’s hit a lot of big shots in the Finals before, so he was unfazed.”
You could have said the same about several of the Warriors after this steely comeback.
Kerr boldly moved DeMarcus Cousins into the starting lineup despite the fact that the 8 minutes Cousins logged in Game 1 represented the former All-Star’s first action since Game 2 of Golden State’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 15. Golden State would go on to lose Kevon Looney (chest contusion) and Klay Thompson (left hamstring tightness) by night’s end, but not before Thompson scored a team-high 25 points.
Cousins, for his part, was an undeniable difference-maker in his 27-minute return to prominence with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. And the rest of Golden State’s starting lineup delivered when it absolutely had to, enabling the Warriors to avoid their first two-games-to-none series deficit in this five-year run of title contention.
Stephen Curry scored 23 points despite missing his first six shots and feeling, in Kerr’s words, “a little bit dehydrated.” Thompson scored 18 of his points in the first half to keep the Warriors in striking distance after they fell behind by 12. And Iguodala shook off the effects of a crushing Marc Gasol screen to sink not one but two huge 3-pointers after going five games without one.