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Three Questions from the Raptors ahead of Game 6 vs. the Golden State Warriors

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After an ugly loss on Monday, Jannelle Moore of Golden State of Mind answered some questions for us regarding an impassioned Warriors squad, Kawhi’s struggles and how to deal emotionally with blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors were three minutes away from an NBA Championship before Nick Nurse called a timeout that seemingly stymied Kawhi’s rhythm, spurring a Warriors comeback en route to a 1-point loss. Folks, this one hurt.

Thankfully, we got to speak to Jannelle Moore of Golden State of Mind about how Torontonians can stay calm right now, Kawhi’s off-night and what stirs the Warriors’ passionate play:

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After Game 5, Klay Thompson went on record saying the Warriors were playing for KD, who went down with an unfortunate achilles injury. The Warriors had faced internal strife all year - how do you think this renewed sense of purpose will change the series, if at all?

This renewed sense of purpose will change the series by giving the Warriors momentum. What we as fans sometimes forget is that momentum is the intangible that can change the trajectory of the series. The win plus KD’s injury is enough momentum for the Warriors to change the series because they will use this injury as a rallying point. Now they have an extra incentive to fight.

HQ’s Take: The Warriors looked especially energized last game, but I credit their shot making and tremendous defensive effort more than any other factors. Even before Durant left the game, this team looked focused in a way I hadn’t seen since the third quarter of Game 2. They were screening like crazy off the ball, leading to some squeaky-clean looks from Steph, Klay and Durant. The Raptors left Draymond wide open, which is usually a good idea, but he made them pay. Essentially, no matter what Toronto did on defense, Golden State just nailed their shots. Sometimes, it simply comes down to that.

Aside from his 10 point takeover in the 4th quarter, Kawhi Leonard had one of his worst games of the post-season. How did the Warriors slow him down, and what can Kawhi do to take control next game?

The Warriors slowed Kawhi down without doubling him. Klay and others were solid defending him. As far as adjustments are concerned, he can put the ball on the floor and drive more. Command a double team and continue to trust his teammates to knock down open shots.

HQ’s Take: The Warriors — especially Andre Iguodala — played very tight on Kawhi, leaving him with very little space to maneuver. Occasionally, he managed to use crafty footwork to split a double team, but Golden State generally played him brilliantly. They rushed to the spots on the floor where Kawhi likes to operate and smothered him, stripping the ball away on multiple occasions. It’s difficult to come up with a perfect solution for these issues considering Kawhi’s nursing an injury, but it would help if he demonstrated more explosiveness next game. When Kawhi’s able to lose a defender early in a possession, the entire floor shifts towards him. This, in turn, creates more open shots for Lowry and Gasol, assuming they’re running some off-ball action to free themselves up on the perimeter.

How did the Bay Area fanbase feel when the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals? Seeing as the Raptors are facing a similar situation, what advice do you have for Torontonians to keep their cool?

Warriors fans felt shocked and hurt after squandering the 2016 finals. My advice to Raptor fans is if they happen to lose, it’s better to vent in the immediate aftermath. Afterwards, compartmentalize. You have to keep it in perspective that it’s a game, number one. Number two, it’s a game that you’re not even playing in. Also, take away the positives from the season. The Raptors are a damn good team that hustled their way through the East. They have the depth and are tough defensively. They have all the tools to be contenders for a while. That’s worth taking solace in.

HQ’s Take: I don’t know if I can contribute much of an answer to this one considering I’m a Raptors fan (clearly) and I’ve never been in this situation before. But, I will say, is anyone else less nervous about Game 6 than Game 5? Last game’s crowd-silencing ending broke me in a specific way that no other Raptors moment ever has. Plus, it didn’t feel like the Raptors would win after KD went down anyway — watching the game after that just felt a bit… gross. It wasn’t meant to be. However, now that things have calmed down a bit, I suppose anything’s possible.

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Thanks again to Jannelle for speaking with us! Please check out Golden State of Mind for more Warriors content as the series reaches its conclusion, whenever that may be.