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The Raptors Won But Finals Chaos Still Reigns

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson (Getty)

It’s cheap to say that the Raptors beat the Gldn Stae Warors (which is to say, 63 percent of the Golden State Warriors) in Game 3 of the NBA Finals; in fact, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that the Raptors might have won the game anyway.

But as it is, the Raptors’ 123-109 victory gave everyone what they needed. The Warriors were missing three key pieces so their defeat came with plenty of legitimate alibis, and the Raptors kicked all the ass the Warriors sent at them—with, of course, the notable exception of Stephen Curry, who told all remaining doubters that they are ignorant swine fit only for rendering.

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If there is a takeaway from this game, it is that Toronto is more than capable of being the superior team, but Golden State may still have Kevin Durant in reserve, and Curry is a god, plus the Warriors-are-better-without-Durant narrative can be sealed inside the Chernobyl sarcophagus. See? Everyone goes home happy, more or less. At least for a couple more days.

Toronto was superb across the board, getting big kids’ minutes from all seven of their most-used players and won a game they needed in convincing style. The Raptors are no longer merely worthy opponents but are full-fledged bad-asses on the hoof. Golden State got the best Curry there can be given the comprehensive lack of credible support, so they got his excellence in a cause that was largely lost from the moment that the Warriors’ medical staff decided (and correctly) that Klay Thompson is not the best judge of Klay Thompson’s medical care.

Indeed, all those of us (well, me, I guess) whose only rooting interest rests in seeing a seventh game come away happiest of all. Thompson is expected back for Game Four, Durant could potentially appear in same, and assuming the insertions into the Warrior box score change the face of this series a fourth time, a seventh game seems by far the likeliest outcome. If your own interests do not coincide with this goal, well, nobody asked you.

In showing themselves at their best, and not just Kawhi Leonard and Fred VanVleet but the rest of the membership as well, Toronto makes this a potential great series in an event that hasn’t had one in awhile. Kyle Lowry, painfully deficient in the first two games, stood out like a purple fence in front of an orange house Wednesday night. Serge Ibaka shaved four years off his birth certificate even after you deduct the two goaltends that were called blocked shots. Danny Green was a polar opposite of the Danny Green we’ve seen. Pascal Siakam’s Game 3 fit nicely between his amazing Game 1 and his miserable Game 2. Nick Nurse not only reduced his bench by one (Norman Powell) and made greater use of the sum of the remaining parts, he cemented his place as the coach who does the best Rick Adelman face since, well, Rick Adelman.

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Toronto clearly deserved to win, and with ease. And they did. Justice was done.

As for Golden State, its weaknesses (after the gaudy brilliance of Curry) amid the absences of Thompson, Durant, and Kevon Looney were laid bare for all to see. Draymond Green failed to be two people, Andre Iguodala was standard Andre Iguodala, and the rest of the membership were rendered largely and deservedly inert. This was most notable in the case of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors’ 2019 X factor who was made into a glaring weakness by Toronto’s speed and length and played nine fewer minutes than in his previous game because he was such a liability.

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Golden State clearly deserved to lose, and were forced to deal with that reality almost from the start. Justice was done a second time.

But what Warrior fans did get was additional proof that Curry is truly a generational player of the first magnitude, and the right to tell with total justification those who do not agree that they should drink a volcanic lake. And they also got the “We still have Thompson and Durant coming” rhetorical shield which up until Wednesday seemed like the cards that win all the hands.

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Now? We’re not so sure. Presuming Thompson and maybe even Durant play Friday, we will get the clearest picture yet of the teams’ relative strengths—four games into the series. This is going to be the grindy Final that we have been promised but haven’t gotten during the Warrior run, and whoever wins, we get paid. Mere rooting for one team is, well, so 2016.

But for those of us who just want more games, we are playing with the casino’s money. If Adam Silver gave a damn about us, he would unilaterally declare this a best-of-11 series, but he doesn’t, so we take what we can get, maybe with the spare overtime tossed in for giggles. And in that, justice will be done thrice because sometimes, it isn’t about who wins as much as it is about who watches. Waste your time with one team or the other if you must; the smart money is on getting the most of this we can get.

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Ray Ratto patented the term “Yay Me!” in 1926, and again in 1947.

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