Article by: Harrison Weaver
I was very impressed with how Toronto came out in Game 1. Golden State left them wide open on the perimeter, so what did they do? They launched on wide open threes, and made a ton of them. As a matter of fact, their first four buckets were threes. The Raptors had the Warriors reeling the entire game. Whether it was the bombs away from three, fast break run-outs, aggressive takes to the hoop, or simply getting back on offense faster than Golden State got back on defense, Toronto straight up outplayed the Warriors. Pascal Siakam led the charge for Toronto by scoring 32 points with 8 boards and 5 assists. He ran the floor like a true point forward, comparable to Draymond Green, leading quite a few fast breaks and dishing out to the perimeter or for easy interior buckets. Danny Green finally regained his stroke as well. He was catching and shooting without hesitation, where his shot looked a lot more fluid, and he made some big shots as a result. Fred VanVleet kept up his shooting magic which started back at the birth of his son, right after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. My favorite shot was late in the 4th quarter. The shot clock was down to the final seconds, and VanVleet launched a fade-away deep, contested, two-pointer. The ball bounced of the glass, spun around the rim, hit the glass again, and dropped in. It capped off a very impressive Game 1 victory in which Toronto came out and punched Golden State in the mouth.
Then we came to the tough Game 2. Once again, Toronto came out firing. Just minutes before the end of the first half, the Raptors held a 12 point lead, Jurassic Park was erupting. It was starting to look like Toronto had a chance to go into the half with lots of momentum and the opportunity to dig the Warriors into a deep hole. However, the Warriors found a way to trim that lead to 5 going into the half thanks to a quick barrage by Steph and Klay. Still, the game seemed to be in Toronto’s control. Fast forward to the beginning of the second half to the point where there was a jumper by Iggy, 59-56. Quick bank shot by Curry, now 59-58. Following that, DeMarcus Cousins passed a dime out to Andre Iguodala for a three-pointer, putting the Warriors up 61-59. Next possession, Klay Thompson finds Draymond wide-open underneath the basket for a layup, making it 63-59. Then, a beautiful pass by Cousins leads to an easy Klay Thompson layup, game now at 65-59. A minute later, Thompson rattles home a three from the wing, 68-59. Next time down the court, Boogie Cousins throws his third dime of the quarter to Thompson for another smooth layup, pushing the lead to 70-59. Thirty seconds later, Iggy finds Draymond Green for a quick layup. The lead has now ballooned to 72-59, capping off a 20-0 run for Golden State spanning over a 6 minute period. This run ended up being the deciding factor in the game.
Toronto made things interesting at the end, but never capitalized on it, just like how they were unable to during this stretch. The glaring weakness for Toronto over this span was an inability to make shots. The shot quality was not much different for the Raptors in Games 1 and 2. This is why we saw Toronto jump out to a 12 point lead in the 2nd quarter. But the collapse occurred when they stopped hitting those shots. It took the air out of the building, and Toronto never recovered.
Game 3 is in Golden State tonight. Kevon Looney is out for the rest of the series with a rib injury, Andre Iguodala has been experiencing calf issues, and even Klay Thompson is questionable with a strained hamstring. On top of that, Kevin Durant has been ruled out. This is what the Warriors dealt with down the stretch of Game 2, and still found a way to take down Toronto, which is incredibly impressive, and speaks towards the franchises commitment to their motto “Strength in Numbers.” It is a next man up mentality. Acquiring players who are not afraid of the moment, which you can plug in to your system and trust them to make the correct reads to be able to create offense by moving the ball and making smart off-ball plays. That is what Steve Kerr has leaned on throughout the process of the 5 year dynasty the Warriors have been on. For those reasons, it is very hard to bet against Golden State, especially in the NBA Finals.
However, that is exactly what I am about to do for Game 3. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Warriors and their “Strength in Numbers.” It strikes fear into every team they are matched up against, and they have shown the ability to blitz their opponent right out of the game with some of their absurd scoring runs. However, the Warriors are banged up, as I listed above. Can Steph Curry and Draymond carry this team and produce enough offensive opportunities for themselves and the role players coming off the bench? Even if Klay Thompson plays, his hamstring is going to have an effect on his quickness, his ability to square up for quick shots, and it is going to affect his shot. Outside of the 6 minute avalanche the Warriors dropped on the Raptors in Game 2, the Raptors have played pretty good basketball so far in these Finals.
The first key will be to make their shots. The whole team shot poorly, Kawhi still got his points but outside of him, nobody could hit the side of a barn. Kyle Lowry needs to have a profound effect. Anything at this point could potentially tip the tide in favor of the Raptors. Hit some shots, create some offense, and make your open threes. Seriously, for the sake of the Finals, anything could work. Siakam needs to bounce back after a very quiet performance in Game 2. Toronto now needs to make sure they keep their heads in the game on defense. One too many times I saw Toronto leave a man open on the perimeter, or fail to contest on drives to the hoop. Stalling out on offense and playing sloppy defense are the fastest ways to let Golden State run you out of the building. I think Toronto can do that. Quite frankly, they should be able to if they are the team everyone has thought they were all season. I like Toronto to bounce back, capitalize on Golden State’s injury problems, and get their confidence back. If not, this series is over. Do or die, Game 3, with everything on the line.
My pick for Game 3: Toronto, 111-107