Warriors

Raptors using G League standout Jordan Loyd as Steph Curry stand-in

Raptors using G League standout Jordan Loyd as Steph Curry stand-in

Jordan Loyd has not played more than 12 minutes in a game this season since signing a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors in August. He still might be one of the most important contributors to the franchise's first NBA championship.

Toronto holds a three-games-to-one lead over the Warriors in the best-of-seven NBA Finals thanks in large part to its defense on Golden State star Stephen Curry. With some of Curry's teammates hobbled (Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, among others) and one entirely absent (Kevin Durant), the Raptors have been able to focus all of their defensive attention on the two-time MVP.

Traps, double teams and a sprinkling of the box-and-1 defense have been used by Raptors coach Nick Nurse to slow down Curry, who is averaging 32.8 points per game on just 42 percent shooting from the field. An overextended Curry has played at least 40 minutes in all four games of the NBA Finals, but Toronto's defense has done its part to exhaust Curry. 

That's where Loyd comes in. During The Finals, he has emulated Curry in Raptors practices, the guard told The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. 

"It's hard for me to even catch the ball," Loyd told O'Connor after Game 4 on Friday. "I can't imagine what it's like for Steph."

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Loyd might be a little beefy as a stand-in. But the 25-year-old has game, having averaged 22.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 36.3 percent from deep with Raptors 905 in the G League this past season. He was also on the All-NBA G League First Team, and posted a true shooting percentage of 61.4 percent

[RELATED: Factors to consider as Dubs try to mount Finals comeback]

Loyd has taken the role seriously. He told O'Connor that he has watched Curry's film for "countless hours" to pick up on his offensive tendencies -- both on and off the ball. Beyond Loyd, Toronto has also spent "extensive time" in practices and film sessions breaking down where Raptors players need to start covering Curry, forward Malcolm Miller told O'Connor. 

That preparation helped the Raptors take a commanding lead in The Finals, and has them one win away from ending the Warriors' three-peat bid. 

Watch Warriors' Andrew Wiggins show off handle in offseason workout

Watch Warriors' Andrew Wiggins show off handle in offseason workout

The Warriors haven't played in an NBA game for five months, and they might not play for (at least) another two or so.

Andrew Wiggins is trying to make the most of that time, working out with trainer Chris Johnson in Los Angeles. Johnson posted a video on his Instagram on Wednesday of Wiggins flashing his handle on a slot pick-and-roll.

Steph Curry and Draymond Green figure to share the bulk of the ball-handling duties if and when the Warriors' projected starting lineup is fully healthy to start next season, so Wiggins might not get many chances to show off what he learned working with Johnson. Projected over a full season, Wiggins' 25.4 percent usage rate in his first 12 games with the Warriors would be the fourth-lowest of his career. Curry played in just one of those games, so that number almost certainly will drop in Wiggins' first full season with Golden State.

[RELATED: Steph, Dame deserve better than these ridiculous debates]

Still, Wiggins initiating plays as a primary ballhandler would be an added bonus.  The Warriors are plenty high on him already, though.

Assistant coach Ron Adams said in June that the "sky's the limit" for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and head coach Steve Kerr said earlier this month that "[Wiggins] fights right in" on the wing.

Wednesday's video provided a brief glimpse of how Wiggins is trying to reward their faith.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Klay Thompson thinks it's 'hard time to play' during NBA restart

Why Klay Thompson thinks it's 'hard time to play' during NBA restart

Klay Thompson said he can't blame any NBA players having trouble focusing on basketball right now.

The restarted season is occurring in a "bubble" at the Walt Disney World Resort amid a global pandemic that has killed nearly 170,000 Americans alone and within months of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's deaths at the hands of police. The coronavirus' disparate impact on people of color, coupled with renewed attention on African Americans disproportionately dying in police custody, has laid bare the entrenched systemic inequalities within the United States. 

Around three-fourths of NBA players are Black, and Thompson said he empathizes with his peers on the 22 NBA teams still playing.

"Honestly, these last few months, it was like divine intervention happening for the world to see what is really going on to a lot of marginalized peoples in this country," Thompson told Brandon Williams in an interview for Bleacher Report. "So I feel for the players right now. It's a hard time to play."

Thompson marched in a protest against systemic racism organized by teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson back in June, and NBA players and coaches have maintained that focus in Orlando.

[RELATED: Steph, Dame deserve better than these ridiculous debates]

Players are mentioning Taylor in their pre- and post-game press conferences, calling for the officers involved in her death to be arrested. Gregg Popovich's media availability routinely serve as history lessons about American injustice. League-approved social-justice messages adorn the backs of players' jerseys. The NBA announced it's committing $300 million over the next decade to spur economic growth in Black communities.

This all is happening as the NBA seeks to complete its season and crown a champion, with teams resuming for the first time in months in pursuit of the sport's ultimate prize. That's a tall order on its own, and an even taller one for players and coaches using their platforms in an effort to enact meaningful, systemic change.

It's understandable they're doing so with heavy hearts.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]