OAKLAND, Calif. — It may now be all up to Kevin Durant and the state of his calf strain to save the Warriors from doom.
Before Friday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Steve Kerr was asked about this being potentially the final Warriors game at Oracle Arena.
“The mindset is, let’s make sure there’s two more games here,’’ the Golden State coach said.
The Warriors did not get that done despite controlling the first half, and now the champs’ legs are wobbling.
The Raptors rolled in the final two periods as Kawhi Leonard lifted his squad onto his shoulders with a 17-point third quarter to finish with 36 points and 12 rebounds in a 105-92 victory.
The rock-solid Raptors will take a 3-1 Finals lead back to Canada — one win from Toronto’s first NBA championship. In a stirring scene, about 1,000 Raptors fans gathered in the lower bowl for a post-game rendition of “O Canada.”
That’s where the Warriors are headed to try to keep the season alive.
“I don’t think it’s daunting,’’ Kerr said. “We have got to lick our wounds tonight. I know we’re capable. They’re unbelievably competitive. These guys have been to the Finals five straight years for a reason.”
Rallying from 3-1 down in the NBA Finals has been done just once before when the Warriors coughed up a 3-1 lead to Cleveland in 2016.
That led to Durant’s arrival. Durant has missed the last month and now the desperate Warriors need to put him out there no matter what to combat the Raptors dynamic bulldozing trio of forwards: Leonard, resurgent Serge Ibaka (20 points) and Pascal Siakam (19).
“There’s been hope that he will come back the whole series — so that’s not going to change now,’’ Draymond Green said. “We hope to have him but we’ll see what happens. His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. If he can great. If not, you still got to try to find a way.’’
Ibaka, after a six-block outing in Game 3, was sensational, hitting jumpers and performing like a beast inside. He made 9-of-12 baskets. As a Durant teammate, he helped the Thunder get to the NBA Finals in 2012 and he’s playing like he’s still in his prime.
The Raptors exploded in the third quarter with Leonard and Ibaka powering the surge, when Durant could have been a big factor in slowing down the forwards.
“We just sort of lost that defensive tenacity that we had in the first half,’’ Kerr said.
While Warriors All-Star guard Klay Thompson (28 points, 11-of-18 from the field) made a terrific return from a hamstring strain, Stephen Curry came up empty. After a 47-point explosion in Game 3, Curry finished with 27 points but was harassed into a 9-of-22 shooting night by the swarming Raptors’ defense.
In Game 2, the Warriors romped to a 18-0 spree to start the second half for the win, but that seems like ages ago. Friday, the Raptors belted the Warriors 37-21 in the third quarter to take over the game and the series.
“[Leonard] played amazing — he hit every big shot, momentum shot in that third quarter,’’ Curry said.