Think back to the opening minute of Game 1. Kyle Lowry, after the Raptors won the tip, turned the ball over to begin the game. The Warriors came back the other way and were unsuccessful themselves with a Klay Thompson miss. Pascal Siakam got the rebound, brought it up the court, worked his way close to the corner where he found an open Danny Green. At this moment every Raptors fan held their breath in hope of Green breaking out of his shooting slump. He missed.
One shot doesn’t make or break a game, specifically in the opening minute, however there was a different feeling to that miss. Everyone wanted to see it go in, no one more than Green himself. He’s struggled these playoffs and even more so in Round 3 vs. Milwaukee. But that one shot from Green, 47 seconds into the NBA Finals, would have meant a lot for the Raptors had it gone in.
Like Fred VanVleet and the bench finding their rhythm in the latter half of the Milwaukee series, Green’s shot making ability is very important to the Raptors.
The game continued early in the first quarter. Following two Steph Curry made free throws the Raptors got back into their half-court set. They moved the ball, Siakam took a couple dribbles before passing it out to Green, back into Siakam, back out to Green and BANG! This three wasn’t normal, it wasn’t just the one that gave the Raptors an early 3-2 lead. It was Green’s first three since the first overtime of Game 3 versus the Bucks. He would make three 3s for the game and finish with 11 points. It brought Green back to life. More importantly, it gave a sense of hope that the Raptors were about to show up and not back down from the Warriors in this series.
Now the chapter turns to Game 2 of the NBA Finals, in which the Raptors lead the Warriors 1-0 in the best-of-seven series. It’ll take that same collective effort again for Toronto. For the Warriors, Kevin Durant is knocking on the door of returning, Draymond Green emphasized needing to be a better one-on-one defender, and the Warriors as a team have been here before.
Here are your details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Golden State – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Jordan Bell
Toronto - OG Anunoby (appendectomy – probable)
Golden State – Kevin Durant (calf – out)
The Warriors have been here before, but they’ve never been in this situation. This is their fifth Finals appearance in as many years, but the first time they’ve been down 1-0 in a series. In fact, since the 2014 Playoffs, the Warriors were 19-1 in Game 1s before Thursday’s loss. The most adversity the Warriors may have felt during the last four Finals appearances is when they blew the 3-1 lead to Cleveland in 2016 and were down 2-1 to Cleveland in 2015. The difference this time for the Warriors is that it’s not LeBron and Cleveland, this is a different competitor.
The Raptors have never been here before. It’s the first time in franchise history they’ve been up 1-0 in the NBA Finals. Sure, guys like Kawhi, Green and Serge Ibaka know how it feels being in the Finals and being up 1-0, but as a collective this is a new experience.
The Warriors could be down 0-2 after Game 2 in this series but can look forward to their two games at home, where they are 6-2 these playoffs. They also have their all-star forward, Durant, reportedly getting set for a Game 4 return. Or, the Warriors get the split, which for any road team is a good start.
The Raptors could be up 2-0 in the series following Sunday night and continue to have home court in their back pocket. They could force the Warriors’ hand to bring Durant back before he’s actually healthy enough to play. They could put the Warriors in a situation of being down 0-2 in a series, which hasn’t happened to them at all during their stretch of playoff appearances since 2013. Or, the Raptors split and head to Golden State for two games with the hope of getting a split of their own, and still hold home court with two of the final three games of the series being in Toronto.
Who really faces the adversity heading into Game 2? The Raptors need to jump on the Warriors quick like Game 1 and put them in a spot they’ve never been before.
Team Effort Defensively
It was an entire team effort on both ends of the court during Game 1 for the Raptors. There are some individual standouts that I want to highlight:
The Splash Brothers when guarded by Danny Green in Game 1 of the #nbafinals— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) May 31, 2019
Curry: 1-for-1, three points, 0 assists, one turnover on 12 possessions.
Thompson: 2-for-7, 0 assists, two turnovers (blocked by Green, blocked by help) on 26 possessions.
Final count was 2 Curry points on 29 possessions as VanVleet as his defender, according to @SecondSpectrum.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 31, 2019
So, in 2 games this season, 6 points on 68 possessions.
And of course, the collective effort:
Warriors oRTG by playtype— Mike Zavagno (@MZavagno11) May 31, 2019
First shot half court: 73.8
Off OREB: 187.5
Basically everything is coming off broken plays
The Raptors did a great job taking away the Warriors option A, and at times option B. That’s backed up with the numbers above and by watching the activity of their hands. The Raptors had 17 deflections in Game 1 — no team has averaged above 14 deflections per game in these playoffs but the Raptors at 14.6. When the Warriors did get shots off, the Raptors made sure they were contested. The Raptors forced the Warriors into 25 contested threes out of their total 31 attempts.
We knew the Raptors defense was good, but it really showed for most of Game 1. In the third quarter the Warriors found some rhythm scoring 32 points on 47.6 per cent shooting. However, the Raptors were able to contain any major Warriors run and only lost that quarter by three.
It’ll be important to stay consistent defensively like Game 1 and continue to slow the Warriors down when they go on scoring spurts. Good defense allows for the Raptors offense to flow better, which keeps the Warriors out of transition. It all starts on the defensive end.
Eyes on Siakam
Siakam did something in Game 1 that hasn’t been done since Michael Jordan’s NBA Finals debut in 1991. Spicy P scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had five assists in his own debut. He also shot over 80 per cent from the field.
If you study the Warriors Game 1 defense, they were extremely zoned in on Kawhi, who was “held” to 23 points on 5-of-14 shooting. As the game went on, the Warriors started to send a double team at Kawhi when the shot clock went down to six or five seconds, trying to slow down Leonard’s isolation game.
In Game 2, the Warriors won’t just be zoned in on Kawhi. Draymond Green said he needs to be better one-on-one versus Siakam, and don’t be surprised if Steve Kerr tries different defenders on the potential Most Improved Player of the Year. The Raptors need Siakam’s strong offensive ability to create his own shots and make open jumpers. It’ll be important for him to not shy away with whatever the Warriors try to do and stay aggressive.
The Raptors need to stay aggressive.