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The Raptors won by out-Warriorsing the Warriors

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A 3rd-quarter surge has long been a Warriors trademark. But not in Game 4

2019 NBA Finals - Game Four Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors dynasty has been solidified by its fleet of superstar talent, its uncanny ability to hit shots from range, and like clockwork in blowing out teams with sheer force in the third quarter. But in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors beat them at their own game. Suddenly, the Warriors are in serious danger.

In the Raptors’ 105-92 win, Toronto outscored the third-quarter savants 37-21 at their own game. Kawhi Leonard broke out for 17 points in the 12-minute frame, knocking down a pair of threes and taking whatever space in the paint he pleased. The Warriors on the other hand floundered with an exhausted Steph Curry firing short and the remainder of his half-healthy teammates coming up with bricks.

Friday night was an unbelievable flip-flop from the norm of not only the 2018-19 season, but half a decade of what we know to be true. This season, the Warriors outscored opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. In the playoffs last season, the Warriors outscored opponents by 29.9 points per 100 possessions in the third. This has always been their time to dominate, and simultaneously the time for fans to turn off the television in assumption that the final 12 minutes were purposeless.

But the same team that’s run the back-to-back champs into a frantic state with a middle school-esque box-and-one zone found one more unorthodox way to torch them — crushing them in their own quarter.

The Warriors have infinite reasons to be struggling. Klay Thompson is playing on a hampered hamstring, Kevon Looney on a broken collarbone, Andre Iguodala on a tight calf, DeMarcus Cousins on a torn quad and Kevin Durant hasn’t even played a game in this series. But that doesn’t take away from the glorious execution from Nick Nurse’s Raptors team.

Game 4, like the two Raptors wins before it, never felt like Golden State had a legitimate stake in a win. Leonard finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds, Sergie Ibaka with 20 points and four rebounds and Pascal Siakam with 19 points. The Warriors held a brief 11-point lead in the first half, but that was it. Golden State simply hasn’t found an answer for Toronto’s versatile wings and bigs.

Not even third-quarter hero ball could bring the Warriors’ vintage way of winning back to fruition. Their 21-point showing in the third was tied for the fourth-fewest points in that quarter all year, and losing the quarter by 16 points was their worst differential all year.

For the longest time during Golden State’s historic run, there was no out-Warriors-ing the Warriors. The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers would agree. But now, against the beat-up Diet Warriors, it is the way. With fewer defensive threats on the floor, Toronto’s can thrive and with so much weight placed on Curry’s efficiency alone, the Warriors are hanging by threads.

Unluckily for them, the trigger-happy, well-grounded defensive group from Canada is putting it all together at the right time.