TORONTO — For the first part of the third quarter, it was no Canada.
As in a complete zero.
The two-time defending-champion Warriors were confident they would respond with vengeance from their Game 1 loss and waited until after intermission Sunday to make good on their promise of muzzling the Raptors’ speed and shot-making.
With former President Barack Obama on hand, the Warriors bludgeoned the Raptors with a rollicking 18-0 start to the second half, erasing a five-point deficit with a 109-104 triumph in Game 2 that evened the NBA Finals.
As Scotiabank Arena’s usual uproar was quieted, Toronto was held without a point for the first 5:40 of the third period. The Raptors missed all eight of their shots and committed five turnovers in that span as the Warriors went up 72-59.
Toronto finished the night shooting a sorry 37 percent.
“It was all about our defense,’’ Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Championship defense. That’s what it’s going to take.’’
The series now heads to Oakland, Calif. for the next two games with the dynasty alive and the possibility of Kevin Durant making his Finals debut in either Game 3 or 4.
Golden State’s new worry, though, is Klay Thompson, who suffered what Kerr said was a pulled hamstring. Thompson left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return.
“You guys didn’t think it would be a sweep?’’ Raptors backup point guard Fred VanVleet said after he put up 17 points. “We went into it expecting a dogfight. We won Game 1, but everybody else outside our locker room was a lot more excited than we were.”
The Raptors rallied late as the Warriors went stone cold and Long Island’s Danny Green drained a left-wing 3-pointer to cut it to 106-104 with 26 seconds left.
But Andre Iguodala, with the Raptors doubling Stephen Curry, answered with a wide open 3-point dagger with 5.9 seconds remaining to seal it. Afterward, Curry said he felt it “disrespectful” to leave the 2015 Finals MVP so open on the play.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse backed his strategy.
“We put two on Steph and he almost threw it to Kawhi [Leonard], right?’’ Nurse said. “They found Iggy. If he’s going to take that and give us a chance to get the ball back and win, we’re probably going to live with that.’’
With 6:20 left in the third, VanVleet ended the Toronto drought with a corner 3-pointer. But the Raptors remained down by 10 after three periods.
“It was the big point of the game,’’ Kerr said. “We had a great run to take control of the game. It was a great win. I’m very proud of our team.”
“An 18-0 run against the best, you’re not going to win no game,’’ said Leonard, who finished with 34 points.
After a quiet Game 1, Thompson erupted for 18 of his 25 points in the first half, but suffered a hamstring pull early in the fourth. Thompson got bumped by Green as he was coming down after a missed jump shot and landed awkwardly.
Curry, who looked to be ailing when the first quarter ended, went back to the locker room because of dehydration. He started the game 0-for-6 before rallying to finish with 23 points. “Just didn’t feel right,’’ he said.
It was swarming defense by the rejuvenated Warriors and a lot of open looks missed by the suddenly ragged Raptors. Game 1 hero Pascal Siakam didn’t have it. After his 32-point night, Siakam scored 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting. He was 14-of-17 in Game 1.
“I can’t be up here like, ‘Yeah, I took him out of the game,’ ’’ Warriors’ Draymond Green said. “We threw several bodies at him. That’s garbage. That was a complete team effort.”
The Raptors led for most of the opening half, getting up by as much as 11 points, before settling for a 59-54 halftime lead and then dying.
Golden State started DeMarcus Cousins at center in his second game back from a quad injury that had him out most of the playoffs. Cousins picked up three first-half fouls but fought through it for 11 points, 10 rebounds and a rising role. Kerr even turned to veteran center Andrew Bogut for spot duty in the second half and he provided some inside force and backup point guard Quinn Cook came off the bench to hit three big 3s.
A joyous vibe had wrapped around Canada as the Raptors play for an entire country. The crowd sang most of “Oh, Canada” alone as anthem singer Alessia Cara flung her microphone up to the air.
Raptors superfan Drake wore a Dell Curry Toronto jersey to Game 1 to troll the former Raptors’ son and aimed his needle toward the absent Durant for Game 2 by wearing a hooded sweatshirt with Macaulay Culkin’s screaming face from “Home Alone” on it and “Kevin?!?!?!” in yellow letters underneath.
But the question marks may be removed soon — as quickly as the Raptors’ edge in these Finals.
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