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
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.