The Golden State Warriors may have tied the NBA Finals by winning Game 2 in Toronto, but head coach Steve Kerr's team is not breathing easier even though they return home for Game 3 Wednesday night.
They will not have Kevin Durant in the lineup as they try to take the lead in the series, as the injured forward did not practice Tuesday, per Janie McCauley of the Associated Press (h/t NBA.com).
Kerr had said he wanted Durant to participate in a full team practice before returning to game action. Durant injured his calf in Golden State's second-round series against the Houston Rockets.
NBA Finals Game 3
Who: Raptors vs. Warriors
When: Wednesday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Oracle Arena
Series record: Tied, 1-1
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Thompson's playing status
Klay Thompson is also questionable after suffering a hamstring injury in Game 2. Thompson practiced Tuesday and believes he can help the team even if he is not at his best.
"If I can just be out there even at 80 percent, I still think I can be very effective," Thompson said, per Shaun Powell of NBA.com. "From the progress I've made these last two days, I'm very encouraged that I'll be able to go out there. As long as nothing is torn or really injured, I'm not too fearful of it because, knock on wood, I've been very blessed with not very many traumatic injuries in my career."
Thompson is a sensational competitor, and it seems that if he is not going to play, the Warriors would figuratively have to wrestle him to the ground and tie him to the bench.
The Warriors will also be without key role player Kevon Looney, who suffered a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture in Game 2.
"He's had such a great season, such a great postseason run," Kerr said, per Jeff Faraudo of the San Jose Mercury News. "Fortunately it won't affect his future, but it's a big loss for us."
As a result of these injuries, the Raptors should have an excellent opportunity to pull out the road win they will need to keep the two-time defending champion Warriors from eventually winning a third consecutive NBA title.
Toronto's unusual defensive strategy
One of the things that Toronto head coach Nick Nurse did in Game 2 was use a seldom-seen box-and-one defense against the Warriors and Stephen Curry.
Guard Fred VanVleet attempted to stop Curry with a hounding style of defense while the other four Raptors on the floor manned their own specific spots.
Nurse said that he had to explain that defense to his players, but they went for it. The box-and-one was used by high school and college coaches in the past, but never in the NBA. The league outlawed zone defenses until 2001.
"I drew the box up and who would be where," Nurse said, per Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. "They kind of liked the looks of Marc (Gasol) and Kawhi (Leonard) being down (near the basket), and Kyle (Lowry) up and Fred chasing. Kyle was kind of the one that said, 'Yeah, man, that will work. Let's go.'"
Look for the Raptors to employ that defense again Wednesday night.
Point spread and prediction
The Warriors remain favored in Game 3 despite their injury issues. VegasInsider.com has listed the Warriors as 4.5-point favorites, with the total at 213 points.
While the point spread has slipped from a high of six points, the Vegas handicappers believe the Warriors will handle their business at Oracle Arena.
That's quite a bit of respect, but this team has earned it. Curry has proved himself in big games throughout his career, and there's no reason to believe he won't be able to make key plays when the game is on the line. The box-and-one defense could slow him down, but he will find a way to get it done in crunch time.
Thompson is going to fight and claw to get into the lineup, and it's difficult to see him as a DNP in an NBA Finals game. He will play and make a positive contribution.
The Raptors will push hard and give the Warriors a full battle, possibly building a lead by halftime. But Golden State is a relentless team that plays all aspects of the game, and they will win and get the cover on their home court in a low-scoring game.