With Game 2 bearing down on us all this evening, the Raptors have to feel at least partway comfortable about their situation. The Warriors are still the Warriors, of course, but as currently constituted Toronto has been able to matchup effectively against them.
Will it last? What could change? To answer these questions, let’s first figure out the injury/rotation questions both teams find themselves answering before tonight’s contest.
As was reported almost immediately after Game 1, Kevin Durant will sit out for tonight’s Game 2. We know for a fact he’s in Toronto, of course, thanks to the breathless coverage that attends his every sighting coming to or from a basketball court. But we don’t know how hard Durant is able to go while on said court. The Athletic’s Anthony Slater reported that Durant is doing some half-speed shooting exercises, but is still not moving too fast or well.
For his part, Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a salient point, noting that a calf injury — which is what Durant has been suffering from since their series with the Rockets — is not like a knee or ankle thing that he can play through. If Durant comes back to early from this, it could spell the end of his postseason run with the Warriors. And if you watched Game 1, you’ll note that that would be extremely bad news for Golden State against these Raptors.
The word from Chris Haynes and others is that Durant plans to come back at the “midpoint” of this series. That suggests Games 3 or 4 are in play. Kerr said that Durant will only come back if he can get a full practice in, which hasn’t happened yet. My gut — which means nothing, really — tells me the Warriors go back to the west coast, get in a practice before Game 3 and then try KD out and see where they’re at. This will become an imperative, especially if they find themselves down 0-2 for the first time in forever.
Meanwhile, the Warriors other main option at the 3-spot, Andre Iguodala, is also suffering from a calf injury he may have re-aggravated near the end of Game 1. Iguodala has said he’s fine, and an MRI did indeed come back negative, so he’s been cleared to play. (Last night’s injury report does not list him on it, but that could change as the day goes on; we’ll keep an eye on the situation.)
This is extra bad news for the Warriors because, well, they don’t have a ton of other options. Off the bench they played Kevon Looney 28 minutes at centre, Shaun Livingston 18 minutes as a do-it-all utility man, and then it was a bunch of 8-9 minute from Alfonzo McKinnie (the nominal small forward), Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, and DeMarcus Cousins. All of them scored a few points, but none really put the fear of God into the Raptors.
At the same time, Iguodala was held to just six points in Game 1, on 3-of-7 shooting from the field, including 0-for-4 from three (plus seven assists). This, of course, is the biggest difference in the Warriors’ attack right now. Iguodala hasn’t hit a three-pointer since Game 6 against the Rockets, a run of five games in which he’s gone 0-for-11 from deep. Now, we know that could change (see: Green, Danny; VanVleet, Fred) but we also know that if you’re betting on Warriors making three-point shots, the Raptors would happily live with Iguodala (or Draymond Green) taking them, rather than Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant’s absence, and Iguodala’s inability to space the floor, continues to play right into Toronto’s hands.
More positives! OG Anunoby, fresh off a vague diagnosis from coach Nick Nurse, is indeed listed as “probable” for tonight’s game. As you’ll recall, Nurse mentioned that OG was about ten days away from being ready to go — in time for Game 4 — and now here we are a bit ahead of schedule with some good news. The question now is: does Anunoby play in Game 2?
Much like the Cousins situation for the Warriors, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nurse tries OG for a few minutes in the comfortable environs of the Scotiabank Arena. OG will not have to guard Kevin Durant — though he’ll have to be switch-ready on defense — and he won’t be tasked with doing much else on offense but shoot open 3s and make smart cuts. This was his bread-and-butter last year in the playoffs, and I doubt Toronto will ask for much more than that after Anunoby sat out the last month and a half while recovering from an annoying appendectomy (and subsequent infection).
A healthy and up-to-speed Anunoby gives the Raptors another powerful wing option to throw out on defense — someone who can supplant Norman Powell, and especially Patrick McCaw in the rotation. And if and when the Warriors go “small” with KD at centre — along with Draymond, Iguodala, Thompson, and Curry — the Raptors could theoretically match that size and pace by trotting out Pascal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard, and Anunoby.
Let’s see what, if any, kind of run Anunoby might get this evening. It’s unlikely the series will turn for the Raptors due to his presence, but in an all-hands-on-deck scenario — e.g. the return of Durant in Oakland — any help would be good to see.