We spoke with Jannelle Moore of Golden State of Mind to hear the Bay Area take on Pascal Siakam, predictions for next game and potential strategic shifts on the defensive end:
Pascal Siakam has had to face incredibly tough defenders this postseason in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and now Draymond Green. How was he able to score so easily last night, despite being primarily guarded by one of the best defenders in the world?
There’s a reason why Pascal Siakam is considered to be the front runner for Most Improved Player, and he showed it on Thursday. With that being said, Pascal was able to score so easily because Draymond defended him passively. Before Game 1, Green didn’t have a feel for Siakam and was caught off guard by his drives and quickness. Green was also more concerned with providing protection in the paint than effectively guarding Pascal one-on-one.
HQ’s Take: I agree that Draymond didn’t seem too concerned with Pascal’s offense to start the game. This passivity proved to be damaging, even when the Warriors ramped up their defense as the game progressed. Pascal had gotten in rhythm in the first half, and when he’s feeling himself, there’s very little the opposition can do to stop him. Pascal is not only athletic — he’s nifty and supremely skilled. Draymond seemed more engaged defensively in the third quarter, but still got torched by Siakam’s Euro steps and Hakeem-esque Dream Shakes.
As you mentioned in our previous discussion, most Golden State fans predicted the Warriors to win in six games. Was Game 1 alarming for you in any way, or did it play out like you suspected it would?
Game 1 wasn’t alarming for me at all. The Raptors came out like I expected them to — full of energy, and locked in. The Warriors were coming off of nine days rest and it showed. Even with the rust, there were opportunities for the Warriors to steal the game but they just couldn’t get the defensive stops to gain momentum.
HQ’s Take: Game 1 gave me confidence that the Raptors are built to handle this Warriors squad, sans-Durant. Golden State swarmed Kawhi Leonard, conceding open shots for Gasol and Siakam, much like we’ve seen in previous rounds. Regarding the nine days rest, I’m going to have to agree with Steve Kerr. When asked post-game if the Warriors experienced any rust after such a long break, Kerr admitted, “It doesn’t matter... if [the Warriors] had won, the story would’ve been that [they] were well rested.” This close game shouldn’t alarm Bay Area fans, but it might hint at some defensive adjustments centred on Siakam moving forward.
The Warriors pressured Kawhi Leonard early on with multiple bodies, stifling his offense. However, that led to extra space for Siakam and Marc Gasol, who both knocked down some wide open threes and utilized the open floor to finish at the rim. What should Golden State do differently defensively next game?
They should tighten up on their perimeter defense. I like what they are doing with Kawhi and they shouldn’t abandon that approach for the others. However, the Warriors shouldn’t be leaving open everyone else for “practice shots”. Green will also need to make adjustments in his defense of Pascal. He can’t totally help off of Pascal, but he can’t be indecisive either.
HQ’s Take: If the Warriors aren’t going to selectively close out on shooters, this series may become one-sided rather quickly. Of course, with how Golden State is guarding Kawhi, defenders can live with Siakam and Gasol shooting some long range attempts, but they have to pick their spots carefully. Marc is particularly adept shooting straightaway threes, while Siakam is proficient from the corner; leaving shooters open from where they’re most comfortable is a dangerous gamble, and the Warriors got burned in Game 1.
Thanks again to Jannelle for speaking with us! Make sure to check out Golden State of Mind for more Warriors content throughout the series.