OAKLAND, Calif. — The Warriors used to thrive through the adversity. They remained confident when they faced playoff series deficits. They exerted their dominance with third-quarter runs. Then they prevailed with crunch-time plays.
So why did the Warriors whittle this time under those circumstances? The Warriors labored to a 105-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena, and this outcome might signal the near end of both their dynastic run and Oracle Arena itself.
With the Warriors facing a 3-1 series deficit to the Raptors, a few outcomes are in store should the Warriors to overcome this obstacle just as they did to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2016 Western Conference finals.
Toronto could clinch its first NBA championship in franchise history with a decisive Game 5 on Monday, denying the Warriors’ quest to win four NBA championships in the last five years and becoming only the sixth team in NBA history to win three consecutive titles. If the Warriors cannot at least force a Game 6 for Thursday, they will have closed a storied 47-year history at Oracle Arena this way.
The Warriors squandered an 11-point lead and trailed by as many as 16. Instead of the Warriors making a customary third-quarter run, the Raptors outscored them, 37-21. Instead of playing with championship poise, the Warriors committed 19 turnovers. Instead of exerting their defensive edge, the Warriors allowed the Raptors to dominate with a mix of Kawhi Leonard (36 points on 11-of-22 shooting), a dose of Serge Ibaka (20 points on 9-of-12 shooting) and a whole lot of 3s (10 of 32).
So much for the Warriors simply needing Klay Thompson to return with a left hamstring injury and finish with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 6-of-10 shooting from 3. So much for Stephen Curry building off his 47-point performance in Game 3 by laboring with 28 points while going 9 of 22 from the field and 2 of 9 from deep. So much for the Warriors’ vow to elevate their supporting cast.
The Warriors signed him as their prized free-agent acquisition, but DeMarcus Cousins labored with four turnovers and two fouls. Kevon Looney pleasantly surprised the Warriors with a return after suffering what was initially considered a season-ending injury in Game 2, but his 10 points and six rebounds did little to combat everything else. Draymond Green nearly recorded his sixth triple-double of the postseason with 10 points, 12 rebounds and nine rebounds, but he picked up a technical and could not elevate the Warriors’ defense.
It became so bad the Toronto fans broke out with a “Let’s Go Raptors” chant in the final minute. And to think, the Warriors entered this game with all the energy that often defined what made Oracle Arena so unique. Instead of benefitting from that home-court advantage, the Warriors’ championship foundation showed more cracks.