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Raptors prepare for battle in Game 4 vs. the Warriors: Preview, start time, and more

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There’s a golden opportunity for Toronto to take a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. All the Raptors have to do is win Game 4 against the Warriors in Oakland.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favourite analysts in these NBA Finals has been former Celtic and Thunder legend Kendrick Perkins. After the Raptors’ Game 3 victory over the Warriors, he noticed something about the current mood of Toronto’s team.

I really don’t know if the Raptors being cool-headed and understanding the job isn’t done means what Perkins says it means, because that’s exactly how the Raptors should act. But it’s a good feeling nonetheless.

As the NBA Finals continues to go deeper into the series it’ll only get tougher, no matter how unhealthy the Warriors are. The Raptors are banged up themselves. Everyone in the past who has gotten to this point in the NBA season will tell you they were banged up. At this moment, in these games, it’s about who wants it more and who can get to that extra gear.

The Raptors have been able to do exactly that having won 10 of 12 quarters, and more importantly, two of the first three games. They have an opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead tonight in Oakland in Game 4, but they’ll have to continue to “want the smoke”.

Here are the game details:

Where to Watch:

TSN, 9:00 PM ET

Lineups:

Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

Golden State – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins

Injuries:

Toronto – None

Golden State – Kevin Durant (calf – out), Kevon Looney (collarbone – out)

Aggression

Foul trouble was mentioned in the Game 3 preview and needs to be mentioned again. The officiating has, well... they’ve officiated. The Raptors, who play aggressive defense, have at times been overaggressive and put themselves in vulnerable situations that are leading to foul calls. Like Game 2, Lowry picked up three fouls in the first half of Game 3. Game 2 saw Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam join Lowry with the same number of fouls before half. In Game 3 teammates Danny Green and Marc Gasol had three before the first 24 minutes were finished.

Aggressive defense is who the Raptors are and it’s what has gotten them to this point. However, there have been moments when guys can back off the player they’re defending, avoid reaching in and play with their feet. It really comes down to situational thinking. Steph Curry and the returning Klay Thompson can shoot from anywhere on the court, but you still need to be smart about how aggressive you are playing them. With Thompson back for the Warriors, the Raptors can’t afford to have guys sitting off due to foul trouble. This area needs to be cleaned up.

Offensive Slumps

It was brought up quite a bit between Game 2 and 3: The Warriors 18-0 run. How the Raptors failed to score early in the second half and late in the fourth. Putting up shots late in the clock. In Game 3 there were times the Raptors offense went cold, even though it seemed as if they were up double digits for most of the game. An eight-point lead going into Game 3 halftime didn’t seem safe, but it ultimately was. The Warriors pushed back during the times the Raptors couldn’t score for four minutes stretches. But this time the Raptors pushed on once again.

It’s tough to say such a lead can be safe again in Game 4 with Thompson back in the lineup. In Game 3 Toronto did a good job scoring after a Warriors score, at a rate of 1.59 points per possessions that started after a Warriors score — the Raptors average 1.07 in the playoffs. It’s when you have the Warriors down — like the Raptors did multiple times in Game 3 — that you need to keep them down. They can prey on the inattentiveness that comes with a “comfortable lead.” They can find a way back into any game if you give them enough chances.

Close out

The one game the Raptors won the second chance scoring category was the game they lost, but I’m still going to emphasize the importance of closing out defensive possessions with a rebound. The Warriors in Game 1 and 3 combined led 22-12 in offensive rebounds and 43-21 in second chance points. Game 2 was all Raptors with a 15-6 lead in the former and a 23-0 advantage in the latter.

A lot of this is being caused because the Raptors bigs, Gasol and Ibaka, are being put in pick-and-roll defensive situations where they need to help cut off any Curry or Thompson three-point attempt. In those situations, the other four players on the court need to boxout and crash the boards. Siakam and Leonard have both had at least seven rebounds in every game, so it’s now on the guards to help rebound. Especially any ball that is tapped out after a Warriors miss. Close out possessions now, so you can close out the series later.