NBA·Preview

What we know about the unpredictable NBA Finals heading into Game 4

If we’ve learned anything through this Raptors' playoff run, it’s momentum doesn’t exist. Every game looks different. Every quarter looks different. Still, three things have remained relatively consistent through three games. How will they affect Game 4?

Warriors' injuries have marred the NBA's biggest stage; Raptors search for consistency

Toronto's Kawhi Leonard has been a constant for the Raptors throughout the playoffs, and his ability to involve his teammates on offence has emerged as a bellwether for the Raptors during the NBA Finals. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

If we've learned anything through this Raptors' playoff run, it's that momentum doesn't exist.

Every game looks different. Every quarter, for that matter, looks different. Kyle Lowry might hit one three-pointer one game and five the next. Marc Gasol is a mystery box. Pascal Siakam's produced one great, one bad and one average game in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors' inconsistency is even more extreme: they don't know who's playing from game to game.

Klay Thompson lobbied to play through pain in Game 3, but the medical staff didn't let him. Kevin Durant has stretched the limits of the day-to-day designation. Even Kevon Looney, once ruled out of the series, now might return at some point.

Suffice it to say, we know (pretty much) nothing about the NBA Finals, except for what's already happened. But we also know that what's already happened tells us nothing about what's going to happen.

Still, we can find three consistencies through three games.

The Warriors have scored 109 points every game

The series thus far has been determined with the Raptors on offence. It's simple: 110 points or more = win, 108 or fewer = loss. It's not a surprising development — despite the absence of Durant and despite the Raptors' stout defence, the Warriors are going to score.

Meanwhile, Toronto's offence, and particularly its shooting, has been shaky throughout the playoffs. It found some consistency in the conference final against Milwaukee, and mostly carried it over to the Finals. On the other hand, there's Danny Green: he shot four-for-25 from deep against the Bucks, but he's already 11-for-22 against the Warriors.

WATCH | Green hits six 3-pointers in Raptors' Game 3 win:

Toronto bounced back from Sunday's loss with a 123-109 win in Oakland, giving them a 2-1 series lead over Golden State in the NBA Finals. 2:32

Typically, role players and shooters perform worse on the road. So the Raptors shouldn't necessarily expect everyone to play as well as last game. Then again, the Raptors are 5-4 on the road during the playoffs, so clearly something is working. It could be Kawhi Leonard and Nick Nurse's composure pervading throughout the team. The Raptors, if nothing else, have been consistently calm throughout the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard continues to be Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is averaging 29 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists in the finals. It's the last number that's important though. In two wins, Leonard posted six and five assists. In the Raptors' lone loss, he slumped to three.

As has been the case throughout the playoffs, Leonard is facing traps and double teams almost every time he touches the ball. How he responds to those situations determines the quality of shot the Raptors produce on the possession. When Leonard sees the traps coming, he can make a quick pass to give the Raptors a four-on-three advantage. When he's a second late in his recognition, those passes become harder to find and the offence bogs down. That's when you see a late-shot-clock-heave, often a Leonard mid-range pull-up jumper. The Raptors can live with that shot, but it's not ideal.

WATCH | Lowry gets shoved by Warriors part-owner Mark Stevens:

The Golden State Warriors issued an apology after team investor Mark Stevens pushed Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry during Game 3 of the NBA Finals. 1:08

To wit, Leonard's highest scoring game in the finals was the Game 2 loss. Toronto is better when the whole team gets and commands attention from the Warriors' defence. Then, the court opens up more and Leonard sees fewer bodies in front of him. Everything is connected.

Steph Curry is an offence unto himself

It turns out the best shooter of all time is a pretty difficult player to defend. Curry is shooting 39 per cent from three through three games, and without his Splash Brother Klay Thompson by his side in Game 3, Curry scored 47 points in a Herculean losing effort.

Curry is dangerous from everywhere on the court. It's even heart stopping when he throws it up from his own end at a quarter's conclusion. Still, the Raptors need to find a way to limit him. Perhaps the move is to switch Leonard onto Curry, but Leonard is already hobbled and asking him to chase Curry around for 48 minutes may not be the best idea.

Otherwise, Fred VanVleet has emerged as the so-called "Curry stopper." The diminutive point guard has limited Curry to 24 points in 101 possessions during their matchup. Lowry, comparatively, has allowed 29 points on just 47 possessions. The Raptors should try to match more of VanVleet's minutes with Curry.

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