OAKLAND, Calif. — As the NBA Finals shift west beginning with Game 3 at Oracle Arena between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, plenty of attention will be paid to Kyle Lowry.
Toronto’s All-Star point guard has struggled with his shot during the first two games of this series, going 6-for-20 from the field and 4-for-12 from 3-point range. He struggled in Game 2, finishing with 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting to go with two assists and two turnovers before fouling out with 3:52 remaining in a game the Raptors went on to lose.
As the Raptors prepare for Game 3, their floor general says to expect him to be more aggressive when he takes the floor Wednesday night, in an attempt to both jump-start his own offense and try to get Toronto back in front in this best-of-seven affair.
“To play,” Lowry told ESPN with a grin when asked what he expected from himself in Game 3. “To do whatever I need to do to help my team win. Being on the road, I may be more looking for my shot, being more aggressive.
“I play better on the road, and I always have. That’s how I’ve always been. The road is where it’s supposed to be the toughest, and I love the road.”
The Raptors will be hoping Lowry is right, as they could use a renaissance performance from him in Game 3. While the Warriors are the walking wounded right now — with Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney already ruled out, Klay Thompson questionable to play and Andre Iguodala limping around but declared ready to go — they still are the two-time defending champions, and winners of three of the past four NBA titles and in their fifth straight trip to the league’s championship round.
That championship DNA shone through in Game 2, when Golden State’s mantra of “Strength In Numbers” helped carry the Warriors to a desperately needed win.
Given the hostile environment Oracle Arena presents for any opponent — especially on this kind of stage — it would be the perfect time, from the Raptors’ perspective, for Lowry to step up and have a performance like he did in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, when he poured in 30 points on the road (though Toronto also lost the game).
“I’m always playing with a chip on my shoulder, and especially here,” Lowry told ESPN. “It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be a jam-packed house. They’re going to be excited to be here. I haven’t been aggressive.”
But while Lowry wasn’t aggressive offensively in Game 1, it didn’t matter because the Raptors got huge games from both Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol.
In Game 2, though, Lowry wasn’t aggressive, in part, because he let the referees get in his head. He got in foul trouble early in the game — something he said he has to avoid in Game 3 — and then committed a terrible foul, his sixth, when he slapped DeMarcus Cousins on the arm in a poor attempt to get a steal 92 feet from Golden State’s basket with 3:52 remaining.
“The last foul was a frustration foul,” Lowry told ESPN. “I had a couple I felt like I was in the right spot, and didn’t get it, for sure. [But] that was a frustration foul. That was a stupid foul. That was my fault.”
The Raptors, like Lowry does personally, expect to bounce back in Game 3. But one thing that shouldn’t be expected to be a big part of their game plan — whether Thompson plays or not — is the much-discussed box-and-one defense Toronto employed over the final few minutes of Game 2.
It was a hot topic of conversation throughout Tuesday’s media availability for both teams — mainly because, at this level, few people had seen it used before.
“Yeah, I know, everybody’s making fun of me for it,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said with a smile.
He then went on to explain how the decision came about in the first place.
“Well, in all those things … first of all, your players have to have some faith in it,” he said. “I got a sense from them that they were good with it in the timeout.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about going box-and-one; what do you guys think?’ And they were like, ‘Well, what does that look like? I drew the box up and who would be where.
“Kyle was kind of the one that said, ‘Yeah, man, that will work, let’s go.’ That kind of lets you, I don’t know, share the responsibility a little bit. We all are on the same page and we leave the huddle and we’re all good with it. So that helps.”
Lowry described it another way.
“Never practiced that ever,” Lowry said with a smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever run a box-and-one in my life, I’m going to be honest with you.
“I didn’t look at it as anything but what Coach said to do. I don’t know if it worked or not. I don’t know the numbers or whatever it was. But it was pretty innovative. The first time a team has probably ever played box-and-one in the NBA ever. So you give Nick Nurse credit for that.”