Kawhi Leonard was brilliant once again, and the Toronto Raptors are now one win away from their first championship in franchise history after a 103-92 win in Game 4 on Friday night to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Finals. Kawhi finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds, continuing one of the best postseason streaks we’ve seen in recent memory, even as the rest of his team struggled to make shots for long stretches of this contest.
For the Warriors, Klay Thompson’s return after missing Game 3 wouldn’t be enough to even the series, despite leading the way with 28 points and six three-pointers on the night. Injuries and fatigue took their toll on Golden State, as the defending champs were never quite able to find their rhythm in the second half and gain any kind of momentum.
After his 47-point outburst in Game 3, Curry looked gassed almost from the start and went just 9-of-22 from the field, including 2-of-9 from downtown, to finish with 27 points. Serge Ibaka made a big impact off the bench for the Raptors with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting, while Pascal Siakam chipped in 19 points but was just 6-of-14 from the field.
It was a rough start right from the opening tip as both teams went scoreless for nearly three minutes of the opening quarter. Prior to tipoff, Steve Kerr made the stunning announcement that Kevon Looney would play in Game 4 despite previously being ruled out of the remainder of the Finals after suffering a bone fracture in one of his ribs in Game 2. And Looney wasted no time getting going with an easy layup for his first points of the contest and put up eight points in the first half, but scored just two more the rest of the way.
Still, Looney and front-court mate DeMarcus Cousins were both shaky out of the gate, combining for five early turnovers as sloppy play marred both squads in the opening half. The Warriors were able to use a 10-2 run to take a double-digit lead, as Raptors players not named Kawhi were a combined 1-of-13 to start the game, but Kawhi single-handedly kept Toronto in striking distance, scoring 14 of his team’s 17 points in the opening quarter. The Raptors, miraculously, only trailed by six after one.
The shooting woes continued for both teams as they were a combined 4-of-30 in the first half from downtown, with Danny Green starting 0-of-5 and Curry missing his first five attempts as well. Klay, however, came alive in the second quarter, hitting back-to-back shots late in the period to give him a team-high 14 points for the game.
Kawhi came out blazing in the third quarter with back-to-back threes to give the Raptors their first lead of the game, however briefly. But Klay came right back with a three of his own, and it went back and forth from there as both teams finally started to find their mark from long-range, with multiple lead changes in the process.
Draymond Green, as usual, was all over the place, and he came up with a big chasedown block on a Kyle Lowry layup attempt in transition midway through the third quarter. He nearly notched a triple-double despite the loss as he finished with 10 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds.
After his up-and-down play this series, Ibaka came alive late in the third quarter with a big block on one end and followed it up with a three-pointer on the other.
He helped key a huge run for the Raptors, but it was Kawhi who scored 17 points in the period as they took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter. Toronto scored 37 points in that quarter alone after a 42-point first half.
There was a scary moment at the start of the fourth when Fred VanVleet caught an inadvertent elbow from Shaun Livingston that left him bloody — and his erstwhile tooth on the court — forcing him to the locker-room to be evaluated.
VanVleet would receive seven stitches and return to the bench after showing no signs of a concussion, but would ultimately not re-enter the game. He finished with eight points. In his absence, Danny Green made his first three-pointer of the game midway through the fourth quarter to give the Raptors their largest lead of the night, 91-76. The Warriors would cut it to 10 at one point, but they’d never get any closer than that.
Now, the Raptors have an opportunity to finish things off on their home floor in Game 5 on Monday.