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RYAN WOLSTAT: Raptors’ Green no fan of getting off easy with Warriors ailing

- Reuters

OAKLAND — Danny Green sure seemed genuine when he said it.

“There’s a lot of bumps and bruises in this series that are played through. It sucks that they have so many guys out and injured. Obviously, you want to play against a 100% healthy team,” Green said of the battered Golden State Warriors.

The NBA Finals will resume on Wednesday night here with Kevin Durant, who teammate Shaun Livingston called “maybe the best player in the world” on Tuesday, sitting on the sidelines. All-star shooting guard Klay Thompson is battling a hamstring issue that limited his mobility at practice. Former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala is fighting through a calf issue and mainstay centre Kevon Looney is done for the season because of a broken collarbone.

The Raptors could celebrate the fact that they are catching a break, but instead the competitor in players like Green are coming out.

“Hopefully all of those guys are playing. It would be nice to compete against them. That’s what we love to do. We love to take on the challenge of playing against their best guys,” Green said.

Green recognized that Golden State has had relatively good health in previous runs to the Finals, but the grind adds up.

“It’s the name of the game. Usually the team that makes it or wins it is the best team playing the best basketball, but also the healthiest team,” he said. “They’ve been that team for the last four or five years now, so it seems as if it might be catching up with them a little bit.

“I can’t imagine going to five Finals back-to-back, I’ve been to two straight (when he was with San Antonio). It’s a short summer, it’s a quick turnaround. Just as much as it’s draining physically, mentally, emotionally, it’s even tougher,” Green said.

Thompson said, “it would be hard to see me not playing (on Wednesday).”

He got up lots of shots and tried moving laterally a bit at the portion of practice the media observed.

“Obviously I would do anything I can to be out there, but it’s all in (the training staff’s) hands. If there’s any pain, it will be a no-go just because of the position we’re in. This could be a longer series, so there’s no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game … It will be a game-time decision. But I really want to be out there,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the pain level was much less than on Sunday night when he landed awkwardly and had to leave the game.

“Hopefully the same progress will be made and I’ll be moving like my normal self tomorrow. But the pain level wasn’t too crazy at all,” he said.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Durant is “ramping up his exercise routine, his workouts” in anticipation of a return soon.

Iguodala went through practice after looking fine in Game 2.

Golden State has won 32 of its past 34 games with Durant out but Stephen Curry in and is the first team to win a Finals game without its top scorer since Los Angeles in 1980, when Magic Johnson stepped up for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

LEADERSHIP BY COMMITTEE

Curry said he doesn’t change his approach to leading his team when other stars are out of the lineup. And he made it clear, as did Kerr, that he isn’t the only one in charge.

“We do it by committee. There are a lot of different voices that we have that we rely on. Myself, Draymond (Green), Shaun, Andre. Even (Durant) when he’s able to provide his input, even when he’s injured and going through his rehab and stuff like that. We all just understand the moment and we’re very locked in and focused on adapting to the circumstances that are thrown at us right now with a lot of injuries and kind of uncertainty of even who is going to be able to play,” Curry said.

“We have been through a lot, had a lot of different experiences. This is just adding to that book. So we have to be ready.”

CRINGE-WORTHY

Sometimes fans get accreditation to the NBA Finals. The NBA does a good job of preventing it, but it happens.

That’s why you get exchanges like the one the other day between a “reporter” and Curry.

The reporter told Curry he hopes this time he will earn a Finals MVP award for the first time and asked him if he’d be upset if he doesn’t get it.

“I want to win a championship and that’s all that matters, my man,” a patient Curry said. “Appreciate it though.”

A lot of times these exchanges happen because the way the media works is different in other parts of the world.

GUARDING STEPH

Curry has been guarded most through two games by Fred VanVleet (71 possessions) and Danny Green (34) and has shot 2-for-10 with seven assists and two turnovers against VanVleet, 1-for-3 with no assists and a turnover against Green. Interestingly, Curry has not yet drawn a foul while guarded by Green, even though Green has talked a lot about needing to cut down on the fouling (as a team) in order to slow down the Warriors.

“We’ve got to do a better job keeping him off of the free-throw line. He’s shot a ton of free throws,” Green said.

Golden State has averaged 115.8 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs overall, but just 110.7 against the Raptors after scoring 113.3 against Portland in its four-game sweep.

AROUND THE RIM

There were no signs of the stomach issue that bothered Curry at the start of Game 2 … The New Orleans Pelicans are now ready to hear pitches for the services of Anthony Davis, according to The Athletic … The Los Angeles Lakers have added long-time Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins to Frank Vogel’s staff … The Warriors are minus-47 combined in the first half of the past five games. The team is +57 in the second half of those games … VanVleet’s first 15 playoff games: -40. VanVleet’s past five: +79 (per basketball-reference.com) … Spotted in Oakland as we left the arena: Vincent Lamar Carter, who had a pretty memorable night here all those years ago with his above-the-rim exploits.

LOONEY’S ABSENCE LOOMS LARGE

Golden State might have bigger names hurting, but don’t underestimate the loss of Kevon Looney for the rest of the NBA Finals.

Looney broke his collarbone after a collision with Kawhi Leonard in Game 2. The centre is a long and athletic 6-foot-9 and is a disruptive defender. He’s more impactful than either Jordan Bell or Andrew Bogut (despite Bogut’s couple of minutes of success against the Raptors in Game 2) even if his stats don’t stand out — his advanced metrics are very good.

Looney played 28 minutes in the opener, but was held to 10 the next game because of his injury.

Now the Warriors will have to rely heavily on former all-star DeMarcus Cousins, who is only a couple of games into his return from a long injury layoff.

“Obviously a big blow for us and for him,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after practice on Tuesday.

“He’s had such a great season, such a great postseason run. Fortunately, it won’t affect his future, but it’s a big loss for us.”

Golden State’s ‘Strength in Numbers’ mantra will be tested, with Klay Thompson battling a hamstring issue, Andre Iguodala dealing with a sore calf and Kevin Durant still sidelined.

“I think that when you get to this stage — our DNA shows up, so it’s not something you just throw out there to have nice shirts and give out to the crowd at Oracle and have all this marketing stuff,” Stephen Curry said.

“It’s literally how we approach every day from training camp to June, how we support each other, how guys stay ready throughout the year, whether they play like 30 minutes or miss 10 straight games out of the rotation, whatever it is.

“Coach always talks about it, that everybody’s going to have a chance to help us win a championship at some point, and just to stick with it and be patient,” Curry said.

Cousins says he is feeling good and is enthusiastic, after missing the playoffs entirely for most of his NBA career, to be able to help on this stage.

“This is what I’ve worked for my entire career … to have this opportunity to play for something,” Cousins said.

“I don’t take any of this for granted. I’ve seen how quick this game can be taken away from you. So every chance I get to go out there and play, I’m going to leave it on the floor,” Cousins said.

Cousins was quiet in Game 1, excellent in Game 2 and starting again in Game 3. How he performs the rest of the way should have a big impact on how these NBA Finals play out.

DEROZAN ROOTING FOR RAPTORS FRIENDS

With time providing him with some perspective, DeMar DeRozan has come to understand his departure from the Toronto Raptors.

DeRozan took his July trade to San Antonio in the Kawhi Leonard blockbuster quite personally, believing he had been promised he’d stay put (which was not a fully accurate take) and had deserved to stay for everything he had given to the franchise. It was a bitter divorce.

But on Bleacher Report’s Take it There, DeRozan said: “To their credit, they probably felt like it was time to see what we could get to make that next jump.”

DeRozan (and departed head coach Dwane Casey) played major roles in building up the Raptors franchise and finally getting the NBA world to take it seriously.

“If it wasn’t for all the years and groundwork that I did before, there, none of them things would have been possible,” DeRozan said.

“Yes, I fought, I sacrificed, I pushed the limits to where I had to be the sacrificial lamb. You just have to sit back and understand you are the reason so many things were even possible.”

Kyle Lowry has said he still gets regular texts from DeRozan and, to his credit, the four-time all-star, selected ninth overall by Bryan Colangelo back in 2009, is backing the Raptors against Golden State in the NBA Finals.

“My best friend is Kyle, so I’m rooting for my best friend, to do well, to accomplish something that we tried to do all them years and he has that opportunity to do it. So, all them guys on that team, they know I’m rooting for ‘em,” DeRozan said.

DeRozan hadn’t been as cheerful when ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel ran a sketch involving DeRozan after a Finals game last week.

The bit had been recorded a year ago and, according to Sam Amick of the Athletic, DeRozan and his people had asked it not to be aired to respect that the Finals featured DeRozan’s former team.

It ran anyway and apparently another request to at least state it was pre-recorded a year ago was also denied.

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