I had my doubts about that one.
I’ve seen it too many times: An injured team, down to only a few healthy bodies, comes out and plays the game of their lives as the opponent perhaps takes them a little too easily. And when that injured team is the Golden State Warriors — who still feature a two-time MVP and two likely Hall of Famers on their healthy roster — it wasn’t going to be easy.
So: Credit the Toronto Raptors for going on the road, answering every Steph Curry-led punch with a counter-punch of their own, and coming away with a big, and balanced, team win.
The Raptors are the 2nd team over the last 20 years to have all 5 starters score at least 15 points in a Finals game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 6, 2019
They join the Spurs, who did in Game 5 of the 2013 Finals. pic.twitter.com/nBSmmCk9CH
On to the thoughts:
The Terror of Stephen Curry
There’s never been an NBA player that inspires as much fear in opposing fans — and probably teams — at Stephen Curry.
Sure, no one could guard Wilt Chamberlain. And if you got on Michael Jordan’s bad side, he’d rip your heart out, Temple-of-Doom-style. But no one else has ever been able to score as much as Steph, as quickly as Steph. He can literally transform a game in seconds. And the range forces entire five-man defensive units to adjust.
Meanwhile, everytime he has a little bit of space, everyone in the building — on the court and in the stands — holds their breath.
Every miss, the opponents and their fans breath a sigh of relief. Every make, the building explodes. Even when half his team is injured, you can never count him or the Warriors out.
Danny Green, Welcome Back
How much did Toronto miss Danny Green’s offense? He put himself back on the Finals map with six made threes in 10 attempts last night, but none was bigger than a busted play at the end of the third quarter.
With about a minute to go in the period, and the Raptors ahead by 13, Kyle Lowry drove and had his shot blocked by Jordan Bell.
The ball skittered to the ground, but Kawhi Leonard came all the way from the other side of the court to corral it and save it on the sideline, dishing it back to Green...
... who nailed a leaning three-pointer with time on the shot clock running out.
It was just a fantastic hustle play from Leonard, and a timely make from Green — exactly the type of play the Raptors needed to fend off the Warriors.
Marc Gasol... can Dunk!?
Uhh, did you see Marc Gasol throw down a two-hander in the first quarter?
I didn’t know he could do that anymore! Hot diggity dog!
Marc was aggressive in that first quarter, putting in some work on DeMarcus Cousins, and it was great to see. He didn’t make as much of an impact in the second half, but the guards were stepping up at that point and Serge Ibaka was getting it done protecting the rim. But it really does make a difference if Gasol is involved in the offense early. The defense has to pay attention to him; he’s too good, too craft to just ignore. He doesn’t need to score 20, he just has to look like he wants to!
Draymond Green with the Long Leash
Why is Draymond Green allowed to do that whole aggressively “punch the air” thing while screaming at the refs, without receiving a technical foul? That’s a technical foul when any other player does it, and I’m pretty certain it’s been a tech when Draymond’s done it in the past. He did it three times last night (by my count), and once in each of the first two games.
Have the refs been instructed not to call that in the Finals? Why hasn’t Brian Windhorst broken this story? That’s a textbook technical foul for “showing up the ref” or whatever unwritten rule it is.
It’s not like I want to see more technicals called; I’d much rather the refs let these guys show emotion and blow off steam. But I can understand why players get frustrated when there’s so little consistency from the officials. It’s the Finals — they’re really gonna start calling things differently in the last seven games of the entire season? It’s just bizarre.
A Nearly-Missed Opportunity
With the lead at 14 points midway through the second quarter, the Raptors had a chance to really put the game away — or at the very least, give themselves a comfortable cushion for the inevitable third-quarter Warriors run. They had six chances to push that lead to 16 or more. Six! Six straight stops, with Curry in the game. And this what the Raptors did on offense:
- A near shot-clock violation
- A bad Lowry turnover
- A Leonard offensive foul
- A terrible driving shot by Fred VanVleet (after he dribbled for 12 seconds, shoot me)
- A Lowry missed three early in the shot clock
- A rushed Siakam runner
Draymond Green finally scored the other way to put us all out of our misery, and then the Warriors proceeded to cut it to eight before the Raptors responded.
The defense, certainly, was excellent in that stretch. Six stops against Steph and the Warriors is great! The offence failing to score or even generating a single good shot? That was not so excellent.
Thankfully, the Raptors weathered that Golden State storm, but man, I thought they were gonna regret that stretch of offense.
It’s fair to say that last night’s game was a must-win for the Raptors, and they appeared to treat it as such (that terrible offensive stretch in the second quarter notwithstanding). But it’s only going to get harder from here — regardless of whether or not Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant play in Game 4.
Do the Raptors have the mental toughness to steal one more in the Bay?