Curry gets 47, but there’s not much strength in Dubs’ numbers
12:42 AM
Art Spander

 OAKLAND—We’ve heard it for years now: “Strength in Numbers.”  A slogan. An idea. That the Warriors were more than one or two men, that if somebody went down there would another player to make the shots go down or no less importantly to keep the other team from making its shots.

  But the promise is not being kept. Key players are missing, two of the best in basketball, Kevin Durant and, as the Dubs learned moments before game time Wednesday night, Klay Thompson—two fifths of a championship not on the floor. And Kevon Looney also out.

  They say there’s no crying in baseball, and similarly there’s no whining in basketball. You play the men you have, and if they’re not quite good enough, not quite the equal of the missing men, well, that’s life—and the NBA.

   That’s also a reason the Toronto Raptors beat the Dubs, 123-109, to take two games to one lead in this best-of-seven final. A reason but not the only reason.

 The Raptors are an excellent team, long—the pro basketball label for lanky, lean people who give you no space or no quarter—and skilled. Also tough.

   In Game 2, the Raptors couldn’t hold off the Warriors, who are in their fifth straight final. In Game 3, however, at Oakland’s home, Oracle Arena, the Raps were as resilient as they were adept, rebuffing one Warriors challenge after another.

 Sure Steph Curry was brilliant offensively for the Warriors, 47 points, a personal playoff high, but as Dubs coach Steve Kerr said, and to which most basketball people will agree, the playoffs are decided on defense.

  The Warriors didn’t have the defense they needed, the defense that has made them winners. Toronto scored 123 points. Toronto shot 52 percent. Those are numbers we often get from the Warriors. Not from the team they face. And perhaps it was because they didn’t have Klay.

The man can shoot and score. He’s half of the “Splash Brothers,” joining Curry as a long-range (and short range) bomber. He averages in the 20s. Yet his biggest contribution may be his defense. He takes on one and all.

  “I mean,” said Kerr, “Klay’s one of our best defenders, so we missed his defense. But that doesn’t matter. The guy’s hurt, doesn’t play. You play the next guy.”

  Who was Shaun Livingston. Or behind him Quinn Cook.

  When he coached the Oakland Raiders, John Madden would tell us, “Yes, we have a very good backup. But who backs up the backup? When the starter is gone each step along you’re not as good as you were.”

   The decision to not play Klay, who had a sore hamstring, was made just before game time. “The whole point,” said Kerr “is not to risk a bigger injury that would keep him out the rest of the series. Never would have forgiven myself if I played him tonight and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you make . . . Hopefully Klay will be out there Friday night.”

   That’s when Game 4 will be held at Oracle, and to call it a must win is not overstating the case. A defeat would put the Dubs down, 3-1, with two of the possible four remaining games at Toronto.

 “Our offense could have done better, obviously,” said Kerr. Indeed. Besides Curry, who took 31 shots (out of the team’s total 91) and made 14, the only Warriors in double figures were Draymond Green with 17 points and Andre Iguodala with 11.

Conversely every Raptors starter was in double figures, with, of course, Kawhi Leonard leading with 30 points.

 “Everybody wants to see us lose,” said Green, aware so much of North America would like a different champion. “So I’m sure people are happy (the missing starters) are hurt.

  “Not having anyone makes a difference, because when you assemble a team everyone brings something different . . . We just got to continue to battle and win the next game, go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle, win Game 6 and then celebrate. Fun times ahead.”

  Do we hear anybody laughing?

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