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NBA-Play offs 2018-Finals – Game 3 preview

The Warriors return to the Bay Area knotted up at 1-1 with the Raptors, but Golden State hopes to field a healthy enough squad moving towards its fourth championship in five seasons.

After Toronto captured Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Raptors were poised for a 2-0 series advantage before traveling west to daunting Oracle Arena. Toronto built a 58-48 lead with 1:03 remaining in the first half of Game 2, but Golden State crept back to cut the deficit to five at halftime thanks to six late points from Stephen Curry.

That spurred an incredible 20-0 run by the defending champions as the Warriors eventually grabbed a 72-59 lead on their way to a 109-104 victory as 2 ½-point underdogs. Golden State had to sweat out the final five minutes after taking 106-94 advantage as Toronto roared back with a 10-0 run before Andre Iguodala’s three-pointer with seven seconds left to steal home-court advantage back.

Now on to the walking wounded Warriors. Kevin Durant will miss his eighth consecutive game with a calf strain, which shouldn’t be a big surprise. Curry fought through an illness in the first half but finished with 23 points in spite of 6-of-17 shooting from the floor. Klay Thompsonsuffered a hamstring injury and still managed a team-high 25 points as his status is up in the air for Game 3. Center Kevon Looney will be on the shelf with a broken collarbone after playing 10 scoreless minutes.

The Raptors were paced by Kawhi Leonard’s 34 points, although nearly half those points (16) came from the foul line. The unexpected breakout games from Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol in the series opener didn’t carry over to Game 2 as Siakam’s production dropped from 32 to 12 points, while Gasol slipped from 20 points in Game 1 to only six points in Sunday’s defeat.

Toronto is making its first trip to Oracle Arena since December 12 as the Raptors dominated the Warriors, 113-93 as eight-point underdogs. The Raptors cruised to their first win in Oakland since 2004 as Leonard sat out due to injury, while Curry and Thompson combined for 24 points, including 2-of-13 from three-point range.

The Warriors have failed to cover in five of eight home playoff games, while taking the court at Oracle Arena for the first time since May 16 against Portland in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State owns a 6-2 home record in the playoffs with the last loss coming to the Clippers in Game 5 of the opening round. During this five-year stretch of playing in the NBA Finals, the Warriors are 9-3 at home with the most recent defeat occurring in Game 7 back in 2016 against Cleveland.

The Raptors have posted a 4-4 SU/ATS record away from Scotiabank Arena in the playoffs, as half of those wins came at Orlando in the opening round. Toronto won once at Philadelphia in the second round and captured Game 5 at Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals, but all four losses are by eight points or more, including two defeats by 20 points or more.

Bettors taking the ‘under’ (213 ½) in Game 2 were gifted a lucky win and those taking the ‘over’ certainly are still stewing over the loss. Despite going cold in the third quarter, Toronto still managed to put up 21 points. While that drought was costly, it was Golden State’s finish in the fourth quarter that really killed ‘over’ wagers. The Warriors scored 21 points in the final 12 minutes but they only scored five points in the last six minutes. Injuries certainly played a major factor for Golden State’s offense and the battle of attrition can’t be overlooked for Game 3.

“The Warriors won’t have Durant again for Game 3 and Thompson is expected to go but if he’s not 100 percent, you’re betting on role players to make shots again. After watching the Clippers explode for 135 and 129 points in the first round at Oracle, the Warriors have found their form defensively at home. In their last five games, they’ve only allowed 102.6 PPG. Fortunately for Golden State, the Raptors offense hasn’t traveled well in the postseason. Nick Nurse’s club is averaging 101.3 PPG away from home in the playoffs and that’s led to a 6-2 ‘under’ mark. The Team Total (103 ½) for Toronto looks low but based on what we’ve seen, it probably should be 102,” David added.

Going back to the 2016 playoffs, Toronto has watched the ‘under’ go 17-8-2 on the road in the playoffs. Golden State saw the ‘under’ go 8-7 at home during the regular season versus teams from the Eastern Conference and that included the outcome of Toronto’s 113-93 win at Oracle Arena on Dec. 12. That total closed at 226 ½, which shows you the drastic difference between regular season and postseason numbers.

My expectation is that we’ll see Serge Ibaka play a huge role in this one, but Leonard and Kyle Lowry have to set the tone with a strong first quarter. Fred VanVleet’s defense on Curry was an immense part of Toronto’s success at home, so he’ll have to carry that solid play over to Oakland. Given the guys coach Nurse has to rely on to be successful, we should see small ball become their primary weapon, which may lead to the highest-scoring contest in the series. Golden State should see reserves like Alfonzo McKinnie and Quinn Cook feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings, which should also contribute to more points on the scoreboard.

The Warriors currently sit as 4 ½-point favorites at most sports books, while the total is hovering between 212 ½ and 213. Wednesday’s game tips off at 9:07 PM EST and can be seen nationally on ABC.


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