Leonard and Ibaka star to give Raptors win
Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka starred as the Toronto Raptors moved into a 3-1 series lead to put them on brink of their first NBA title with a 105-92 victory over Golden State Warriors.
Leonard scored 17 of his 36 points in a decisive third quarter. Meanwhile, Ibaka emerged from the bench to score 20 points at Oracle Arena on Friday night to leave the Raptors heading back to Canada needing just one more victory to claim a historic championship.
Two-time defending champions Warriors, still without Kevin Durant but buoyed by the return of Klay Thompson, roared into an early lead and held onto their advantage at the end of the first and second quarters.
A scrambling and double-teaming Toronto defense harassed Warriors star Stephen Curry into 2-for-9 three-point shooting record. As they claimed a third successive win in Oakland for the season.
The Raptors rallied from an 11-point, first-quarter hole by outscoring the Warriors 93-69 over the game’s final 37 minutes. The third quarter proved pivotal as the Raptors’ added 37 points to their 42-point halftime total to take a lead they never lost.
In the best-of-seven series, the Raptors will go for their first NBA championship at home in Game 5 on Monday night and the Warriors will become only the second team to overturn a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals – having suffered the fate against Cleveland in 2016.
The Raptors’ pull-away began with an Ibaka three-pointer that broke a 61-61 tie with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Finishing the period on an 18-6 run. As Leonard and Ibaka stepped up again for the Eastern Conference champions.
Toronto easily held on from there despite losing key reserve Fred VanVleet to a cut under his right eye, which required stitches, with just under 10 minutes to go. Using a suffocating defense to thwart any serious Golden State comeback bid, Toronto built its lead to as many as 16 early in the final period before holding on.
Leonard’s 36 points were the product of 11-for-22 shooting overall and 5-for-9 accuracy on 3-pointers. It was his 14th 30-point game of the post-season and third straight in the Finals. He also found time for a game-high 12 rebounds.
Ibaka, who had totalled just 18 points in the first three games of the series, finished with his biggest playoff output since scoring 23 in the first round last season against Washington.
Pascal Siakam added 19 points and Kyle Lowry 10 for the Raptors. Who improved to 4-0 in Game 4’s this season. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson, returning from a one-game absence due to a strained hamstring, led the Warriors with 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting. He made six of his 10 three-point attempts.
Curry, who poured in 47 points in Golden State’s Game 3 loss, finished with 27.
The teams set a defensive tone early on, with the Warriors holding the Raptors to 12 points in the first 11 minutes en route to as much as an 11-point lead.
But Toronto were tough on Curry throughout the first half, limiting him to eight points and no 3-pointers. In the process, the visitors kept Golden State at arm’s length, trailing just 46-42 at the break.
Durant remains a possibility to remain in Game Five but the Warriors now face the prospect of winning out if they are to claim a third successive championship while Toronto will return to a frenzied Ontario hoping to make history.