As NBA Finals games go, Game 5 was a frustrating one in a lot of ways. Neither the Raptors or the Warriors can be particularly happy about the events that transpired.
Still, let’s take a look at some of the issues that led to the narrow one point loss for Toronto. In a contest like that, every little mistake is a disaster. But we’ll look at several issues and try to figure which ones were avoidable, which ones were just bad luck, and which ones we think will be issues moving forward for the Raptors.
Being up 3-2 in the series doesn’t mean much until that fourth win, and if all these issues persist Toronto may not manage to get there.
The Shooting, Again
My kingdom for a made three point shot. The Raptors were outplayed in this game from the perimeter — Golden State managed to get up 42 three-point attempts to Toronto’s 32. That’s bad on it’s own. But that’s life when you’ve got Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant (some of the game) out there hunting those shots every possession. You’d like the Raptors’ offense to generate some more looks from distance, but if they aren’t going to hit them, more looks aren’t going to help.
And man alive Toronto was just not hitting threes in this game. The Warriors hit 20 of their 42 three point attempts, good for 48 percent from three, an absurd number that will almost certainly not repeat itself. That alone is a good sign moving forward, though again you’d like to see the defense suppress the shot totals a bit (the first four games, the Warriors were held to between 27 and 36 3PAs each game).
And the Raptors hit only eight of their 32 attempts, good for 25 percent. That’s... a bad number. Overall, the Warriors got 60 points on those 42 shots while the Raptors got 24 points on their 32 shots. That’s a terrifying split, and practically impossible to overcome. Yet somehow, they still almost managed it.
This is not like in Game 4, where the Raptors dared the Warriors’ bench players to hit shots and they couldn’t or vice versa. The case for Toronto really was just a lot of missed shots from their primary shooters. Kawhi Leonard was 2-of-7. Lowry was 1-of-6. Green was 0-of-4. Siakam was 0-of-4, all from the corner where he shot over 40 percent on the year. Thank goodness Fred VanVleet (3-of-6) and Marc Gasol (2-of-3) had good nights or it could have been a complete disaster. The guys the Raptors don’t want shooting only took a couple of shots from long range (0-of-1 for both Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka). Their shooters just missed.
Before you say it: it wasn’t bad shot selection either. The Raptors got 22 of their 32 threes on catch and shoot opportunities — and shot 18 percent on those shots (they actually hit 40 percent of their ten pull up attempts). Their attempts mostly came in the middle of the clock, so they weren’t rushed (13 of their 32 came with 7-15 seconds on the shot clock — and they hit only two of those). Meanwhile, 18 of those threes were classified as wide open looks — and they hit a mere three of those 18 wide open looks (17 percent).
If the Raptors are going to keep shooting like this, losing the next two games is a distinct possibility.
The good news is, there is no reason to expect them to repeat that performance. At the same time, there is also no reason to expect the Warriors to repeat their shooting performance. They shot 70 percent on pull-up threes. They took 13 of their threes with a defender in tight (within 4 feet) contesting the shot, and made seven of them (54%). These are not sustainable numbers — yes, even for Steph and Klay.
So let’s chalk those ones up to luck and just hope it sorts itself out in Game 6. And now let’s get down to some stuff that’s less about luck and more controllable for the Raptors. In other words, let’s yell about Nick Nurse for a bit.
McCaw on Repeat
Patrick McCaw. You’re darn right I’m opening with this one. From my Game 1 post:
Although McCaw stepped into the role Norm had been playing in (and holding his own in, with the team a +2 in Norm’s five minutes), the Raps lost McCaw’s minutes by three. A lot of that might well be noise, but it’s not a surprise that such a result might happen with that swap.
In small minutes this seems like a fairly harmless choice, but I suspect I only feel that way because the Raptors won fairly comfortably by the end. If this was a one point loss... well, we’ll deal with that if and when we need to.
From after Game 3:
So, Patrick McCaw, huh? This was a concerning blip in Game 1, and it was another concerning blip in Game 3. Both games, thankfully, the Raptors won their non-McCaw minutes by enough that it didn’t matter.
After going -3 in seven Game 1 minutes, McCaw followed that up with an impressive -5 in two minutes in Game 3.
And yet again, this game was fine but should serve as a warning for future games. One of these times, the Raptors might lose a close game to the Warriors, and at the end of the game you don’t want to look back and know you threw away a few points with a strange substitution.
After Game 4:
It once again went poorly. McCaw played under two minutes (all in the second quarter) and went -3. At this point, his appearance on the court is a guarantee the Raptors will lose those minutes.
What’s that? The Raptors lost this game by one point? They also played McCaw for 1:28 in the second quarter, and went -3 in that 1:28? I’m sure having three (or potentially more, could do better than break even) extra points to their name would have made no difference in this one. At least Norman Powell, the guy who should obviously be taking that extra 1:28 instead of McCaw, had a bad game too, he was... +6 in 12 minutes. This is just incredibly frustrating.
This was bound to happen. Just, please don’t let it happen again.
Where Was Siakam?
With nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Pascal Siakam checked out after helming (along with Lowry) the bench unit, which had broken even in those three minutes. He would not return to the game.
This is very odd. Not because resting Pascal makes no sense, or that lineups without him can’t have success — heck, with his struggles shooting the ball, and the Raptors trailing, going small with Powell and VanVleet or Green on the court is an option that makes some sense. And the Raptors made a run with that small look (mostly on the back of a dominant late performance from Kawhi), converting the Warriors’ six point lead into a six point lead of their own. They called timeout with three minutes left and a six point lead. And made no substitutions.
Now all the Raptors would need to do is defend a lead. The good news is their best defender for the series was well rested and ready to come back in to defend the lead. Here are the on-off defensive splits for the five games of the series.
Player | On-court DRTG | Off-court DRTG | DRTG Impact
Siakam: 103.5, 117.2, -13.7
Powell: 98.2, 109.8, -11.6
Gasol: 102.3, 110.8, -8.5
Green: 105.0, 106.1, -1.1
Lowry: 107.4, 103.5, +3.9
Ibaka: 110.2, 103.0, +7.2
VanVleet: 109.2, 101.2, +8.0
Leonard: 109.7, 87.7, +22.0
McCaw: 153.3, 104.6, +48.7
A large negative number is very good here, as it means the team’s defensive rating is lower when the player is on the court. In action, this means the Warriors are having a harder time scoring compared to when that player sits. Leonard has a very bad number but that off-court number is a relatively small sample of bench play, mostly while Steph Curry sat. Meanwhile Siakam, again Toronto’s best defender in the series, spelled his minutes — Kawhi’s on-court number is perfectly reasonable, if not great. Unlike some people inexplicably playing minutes in this series.
And still, no Pascal late in Game 5. He sat the rest of the game. Those final three minutes were bad in every way. The offense completely died, which is known to happen when you’ve got a bunch of jump shooters on the floor with no inside threat — the same shooting variance that played a role in getting them the lead now bit them. The Raptors had seven offensive possessions, and scored on one of them, a Lowry layup. Otherwise they missed four jumpers, had one turnover, and had Gasol try to score inside and miss as well. For reference, those two points on seven possessions is a 29 ORTG. Delightful.
But Toronto’s offense not scoring is manageable, so long as they defend. You just need one to really click to defend a six-point lead. Those seven offensive possessions were matched with six defensive possessions. In those six possessions, the Warriors scored nine points. Three of those possessions were iffy turnover calls by the referees — Cousins with an offensive goaltending call (which was borderline), Draymond Green going over-and-back (barely) and Cousins with a illegal screen (usually an unheard of call at that stage of a game). Every possession the Warriors took a shot, they made a three. But even taking the results at face value, that’s a 150 DRTG to close out the game — while the Raptors’ most effective and versatile defender sat on the bench.
In all, Game 5 was full of puzzling decisions and poor play.
And — as the optimist in me cries out — it still came down to one point. Fix anything at all above and it’s a win for the Raptors. Fix all of it and get luckier with the shooting and this series should be over in six with no issue.
But you can’t control your luck. The Raptors need to fix the stuff they can fix. Doing that alone would likely have been good enough for a Game 5 win. Rather than hanging their hopes on shooting regression (which doesn’t always happen in a sample of a few games — especially with the Warriors involved) for a Game 6 win, they should fix the controllable stuff. If they do, they should be able to close out this series and make history.
All stats per NBA.com