The Toronto Raptors, who, just FYI, are in the NBA Finals, are staring down a golden opportunity to wrestle control of this series back from the Warriors after Golden State stole one in Toronto in Game 2. One would assume with the momentum snatching win on the road and heading back to their home court, the Warriors would be the ones with the advantage. Unfortunately, the injury bug has hammered Golden State of late as Klay Thompson is questionable to play Game 3, Kevon Looney is out for the series with a “got run through by Kawhi Leonard” and Kevin Durant will miss yet another game.
While Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet’s thumb injuries as well as Kawhi’s knee soreness due to a quad issue certainly slots Toronto in the “banged up” category, you have to believe that they smell the blood in the water and recognize that there is no better opportunity to take advantage of one of the greatest teams of all time.
In order to do so, they’re going to have to, once again in these playoffs, remember how to make wide open jumpers. Against a world-beater like the Warriors who still have Steph Curry in uniform, you simply cannot shoot 29 percent from three and have a chance to win the game.
And yet, they did! Thanks to Nick Nurse’s “janky” box-and-1 defense, the salty Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket in the frantic final minutes of the ball game which left the Raptors one steal (or a Curry travel, according to the L2M) away from having a chance to tie or win the game. How different it all could be.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 9:00 PM ET
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Golden State - Steph Curry, Klay Thompson (to be updated as needed), Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins
Toronto - None
Golden State - Klay Thompson (hamstring - questionable), Kevin Durant (calf - out), Kevon Looney (collarbone - out)
Beware the Third Quarter
A poem.— Fortuné Rodriguez (@Four2theNay) May 31, 2019
3rd quarter Warriors,
Down by ten, pic.twitter.com/v3QaIbek88
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Warriors are the best third quarter team in NBA history. Assuming you didn’t know this about the reigning champs, you sure felt and knew it after Game 2 as the Dubs drubbed the Raptors in that quarter to the tune of a “looks better than it felt” 34 to 21 points. At one point the TSN graphic lingered on the quarter by quarter breakdown for so long that I thought I was going to gouge my own eyes out.
There is a sliver lining to that quarter though and that’s because the typical nature of those massive runs that obliterate opponents is personified in scorching offense and suffocating defense. Frustratingly for the Raptors, that wasn’t the case this time around. Yes, the offense was blistering as the Warriors featured a slew of back cuts, deep bombs and heady offense, but the defense? The defense was merely good to passable! It was the Raptors inability to convert their very good to half-decent looks that buried them. In the 5+ minute run where the Warriors put up 18 straight points, the Raptors managed to go 0-for-8 with five turnovers.
As commentators love to remind us all of our favourite song: the NBA is a make or miss league.
Another troubling theme over this playoff run for the Raptors has been their inability to stay in front of the whistle and keep themselves out of foul trouble. By the end of the first quarter in Game 2, Lowry, VanVleet and Pascal Siakam each had two fouls. Five minutes later Serge Ibaka and Lowry both had three fouls while Siakam would pick up his third just before the end of the half.
The Raptors play physical defense, so you could understand why the fouls might skew a little bit heavier towards them but a combination of some egregious foul calls that didn’t go their way coupled with silly frustration fouls saw the Raptors finding themselves in a familiar hole. As Lowry fouled out of the game on a swipe through on DeMarcus Cousins that he admitted to being a frustration foul, one can imagine that Nick Nurse is preaching patience. On the plus side for the Raptors, at least they won’t see the “excellent at their jobs” combination of Tony Brothers and Ed Malloy refereeing Game 3.
All injuries and whistles aside, a major deciding factor in this series is going to be which DeMarcus Cousins is going to turn up to Game 3. In Game 1, Boogie looked completely unplayable as he managed a measly eight minutes off of the bench for Steve Kerr and the Warriors. Game 2 started out much the same as Cousins looked gassed, albeit pesky and aggressive on the first play of the game and couldn’t contain any Raptor he was tasked with guarding in the pick and roll.
As soon as Cousins saw a long, above the break three pointer splash through the net, everything changed. All of a sudden he looked (relatively) spry, engaged and a willing participant in the Warriors offense. His remarkable passing unlocked some beautiful action for the Warriors and the Raptors had no answer for him in the post with Gasol having an off game and Serge struggling with foul trouble.
If Toronto can attack Cousins early and often, the hope is that they can play him off of the floor before he gets a chance to become effective and decisively put a scare in Toronto’s title chances. All things considered, we’ll always have this image to help us through: