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NBA-Play offs 2019-Finals- Golden State looking to survive, Game 4 preview

NBA Finals – Game 4 
Toronto at Golden State (-4.5/215.5), ABC, 9:07 p.m. ET

May 30 – Raptors (-2) 118 vs. Warriors 109 (Over 212.5)
June 2 – Warriors (+2) 109 at Raptors 104 (Under 213.5)
June 5 – Raptors (+3) 123 at Warriors 109 (Over 210.5)

There will be some who won’t believe Kevin Durant is sitting out Game 4 until he’s listed as inactive prior to the contest.

After not being cleared to even scrimmage on Thursday, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr ruled him out of Friday night’s crucial contest, but the star forward wanted to see how he felt in the morning before officially pulling the plug on his availability for a must-win since his Warriors can’t afford to go down 3-1 in the series.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could all be gamesmanship by the two-time defending champs, but it’s doubtful they would be that sneaky, especially since Nick Nurse and the Raptors are going to prepare as if he’s playing anyway.

The Warriors have already made no secret of the fact Klay Thompson is returning after missing his first career playoff. Even though he wanted to play in a Game 3 loss that Golden State discouraged him from suiting up for, the gamble to give him a few more days to rest his hamstring strain may still pay off if he’s able to pick up where he left off. Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook and Alfonzo McKinnie weren’t able to adequately replace his production, failing to support Stephen Curry despite his virtuoso 47-point scoring outburst.

Andre Iguodala started for Durant and couldn’t build upon his huge shot to seal Game 2 in Toronto, finishing with 11 points, six boards and three assists in over 30 minutes. Both he and DeMarcus Cousins started and clearly weren’t their usual selves, a troublesome issue for the champs since they won’t have much time to heal up their ailments with just one day in between games. Thompson won’t be anywhere near 100 percent either, but the Warriors missed him on both sides of the floor, particularly since he’s able to switch and defend multiple Raptors.

It’s probably no coincidence that Danny Green got off the way he did, finishing 6-for-10 from 3-point range in becoming one of six double-digit scorers who made themselves right at home at Oracle on Wednesday. Serge Ibaka finished with just six points but helped change the game with six blocks, so all seven Raptors who played major minutes will have confidence entering Game 4 after coming through with big performances in stealing homecourt advantage back.

Kawhi Leonard led Toronto with 30 points, Kyle Lowry was terrific with 23 points and nine assists and Pascal Siakam stuffed the stat-sheet with 18 points, a team-high nine boards and six assists. Marc Gasol and Green set the tone early with excellent first quarters, joining Leonard in getting the Raptors off to a fast start to allow them to play from ahead and keep Oracle from swallowing them whole. If anyone was worried about the moment being too big for the first-time Finals participants, their experienced veterans sent a clear message that they’re able to lead the younger guys.

We’ll see if Thompson’s return can help the Warriors produce some game pressure that will help trip up the visitors after losing all four quarters on Wednesday night, ultimately leading to Toronto running away for a 123-109 win in what has been the highest-scoring game of the series. The Raptors won the third quarter that had been a rallying point for Golden State all postseason 36-31, bouncing back from surrendering the first 18 second-half points of Game 2 in losing at home on Sunday night. They similarly excelled in the Eastern Conference finals, getting the better of a Bucks team that had dominated coming out of the locker room in the first few rounds.

Toronto controlled the paint against the smaller Warriors, taking advantage of Cousins being a step slow and thriving despite Andrew Bogut again putting together a solid performance. The Raptors scored 36 points in the first quarter, putting together the most efficient opening first 12 minutes of the series thus far for either team in immediately setting the tone despite taking the floor in Oakland for the first time since December. They’ve been effective on the road this postseason, following up a regular-season that saw them go 26-15 outside Canada by winning five or their first nine outside Scotiabank Arena in these playoffs.

If the Warriors lose on Friday, they may not make it back for a Game 6, which means this could be the final game ever at Oracle Arena since the team is moving to San Francisco’s new Chase Center this fall. VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers feels they’ll have a much better chance of holding serve with at least one All-Star returning to the mix.

“The Warriors were put in a difficult position heading into Game 3 with Thompson not able to suit up. Curry can only do so much by himself as evidenced by his 47-point effort, but just two other Warriors scored in double-figures,” Rogers said. “Toronto improved to 6-1 SU/ATS in the last seven games following the Game 3 win as the Raptors are one bad stretch in Game 2 away from maybe leading Golden State, 3-0. It has been a very long time since the Warriors dropped successive home games in the playoffs, which came all the way back in the second round in 1991 against the Lakers (yes it was the famous “Run TMC” squad).”

Curry will look to follow up his brilliant contest that featured 6-for-14 3-point shooting with another big scoring game, but needs teammates to fare better than the combined 6-for-22 clip they managed from beyond the arc in Game 3. Getting Thompson back should help matters, but the likes of McKinnie and Cook, who shot 1-for-5 as a tandem off the bench, must be more aggressive and effective.

Toronto hit 17 3-pointers and shot 20-for-21 from the free-throw line, so it really stepped up when it needed to and got wherever it wanted against a defense that looked incredibly shaky. It may help matters to get Kevon Looney back after he was initially ruled out for the remainder of the series since he’s looking to get back from a collarbone injury and a fractured rib in order to help add some quality depth to a team badly in need of it with so many players hobbled and Durant likely sidelined until at least Monday’s Game 5.

After the injury status for Thompson was announced on Wednesday night prior to Game 4, the total dropped from 213 ½ points to a closing number of 210 at most books. Sure enough, Toronto scored a playoff-high 123 points and the ‘over’ cashed in Game 3 with plenty of time remaining in the fourth quarter. Oddsmakers sent out an opener of 216 for Game 4 and that number was pushed up to 216 ½ at a handful of betting shops before being bet back down to the 215 range. VegasInsider.com totals effort Chris David offered up his thoughts for Friday’s number.

“The ‘over’ was a clear-cut winner on Wednesday and that ticket was helped with a barrage of 3-pointers from Toronto, who finished with 17 triples from distance. I often relied on pace as a key factor for handicapping totals but it’s become apparent now that it comes down to 3-point shooting. If the Raptors continue to ring it up from the outside, this series could be over in five games,” David said. “The “if” is a certainly a big one and you could be reluctant to back the Raptors offense again knowing that they were averaging 101.3 PPG on the road in this year’s playoffs prior to the Game 3 effort. Thompson is expected to return on Friday and not only will that help Golden State’s offense but it’s defense as well. Steve Kerr’s team has shown incredible defensive form after a loss.”

The Warriors have only lost multiple home games in a playoff series twice since their remarkable run began back in 2014. They dropped a pair in losing the 2016 Finals to Cleveland and fell twice in Oakland against the Clippers in the first round this postseason. They’re simply not used to slumping in front of the paying customers.

“Including their win in Game 2 at Toronto in this series, the Warriors have now gone 12-2 after a loss since the All-Star break,” David said. “The ‘under’ cashed luckily in that contest and the low side is now 10-4 during this span. One of the reasons behind those ‘under’ tickets is based on Golden State’s defense, which has allowed 106 PPG. There’s no doubt that the Raptors are a legit team and when the shots fall, they’re more than dangerous. While I could be underestimating them again, it’s hard for me to back a team that hasn’t shown much consistency away from home. Toronto’s Team Total is hovering between 105 and 106 points for Game 4 and I would lean low to the Raptors in this spot.”

Despite the ‘over’ result from Wednesday, Toronto has watched the ‘under’ go 6-3 on the road in the playoffs. Going back to the 2016 postseason, the Raptors have watched the ‘under’ go 18-8-2 as visitors in the playoffs. Golden State is 5-4 to the ‘over’ at home in this year’s postseason. The ‘over’ is on a 5-0 run in the last five NBA Finals games played at Oracle Arena.

Draymond Green, who scored 17 points but had series-lows in rebounds and assists in Game 3, will look to bounce back from committing a team-high four turnovers and must be sharper in facilitating offense, which should also be easier with Thompson back in the fold. Most sportsbooks now have the series as a pick’em despite Golden State being down 2-1, so if you still believe the champs will three-peat, now is the time to strike. Dropping Wednesday’s game led to the Warriors being demoted from the role of NBA title favorite for the first time all season, odds-wise.

Toronto has looked like the better team in the series and are currently one second-half lull from a 3-0 lead over the depleted champs. Given the impending free agency of Durant, Thompson and Green and all the injuries, the NBA’s top dynasty since the 1990’s Chicago Bulls is on the ropes. We’ll see if the Warriors can keep themselves off life support by responding at home to ensure at least one more game in Oakland regardless of what happens in Monday’s Game 5.

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