Articles NBA Playoffs 2019

Playoffs Day 41: And now things get interesting…

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The Golden State Warriors have tied the NBA Finals at one a piece with the 109 – 104 victory of the Toronto Raptors. Game 2 started much the same as game 1, the Raptors came out with energy and focus led by an active Marc Gasol (4 1st Quarter rebounds) and Kawhi Leonard who had the teams first 5 points, punctuated by Pascal Siakam’s monstrous transition Alley Oop.

After the Raptors jumped out to a the early lead the Warriors, led by Klay Thompson who scored their first 9 points, went on a 10-0 run to finish the quarter down 27-26.

The 2nd quarter was telling as the defending champs struggled to score, Curry continued his lack luster play and struggled to connect from deep, oftentimes looking hesitant to attack Marc Gasol in pick and roll situations. In response the Raptors kept on keeping on to take a 12-point lead.

At this point the Warriors started to find themselves, Draymond Green was instrumental instigating early and transition offense wherever possible, his push of the ball allowed peripheral players like Livingston and McKinnie to find their stride.  Midway through the second quarter Andre Igoudala was leveled by a Marc Gasol screen and immediately headed to the locker room, though he would return in the second half.

See: Clutch shots subsection 1: Wing Three’s.

Curry found himself in the tail end of the 1st half, willing home two key 3’s and looking more and more aggressive attacking out of the pick and roll. He finished the 1st half with 17 points to counter Kawhi’s 16.

Raptors lead 59 – 54.

Here’s where the game really started. The Warriors exploded out of halftime with an 18 – 0 run, holding the helpless Raptors scoreless for almost 6 minutes of game time (approx. 4 years in Dinosaur time). Curry was electrifying to watch, attacking Marc Gasol relentlessly in the pick and roll, running in transition and proving himself to be extremely disruptive on the defensive end. Igoudala, Livingston, and Cousins were pivotal. Cousins operating early and often out of the post initiating the Warriors vaunted “low post split” action that led to 8 straight points by the Dubs. 

Leonard steadied the ship for the raptors with a number of incredible finishes through contact. Some light refereeing left Toronto down 8 heading into the fourth, though Gasol and Lowry both picked up their 4th fouls. Notably Klay Thompson limped to the locker room after falling awkwardly on a shot attempt, he would not return (hamstring tightness/soreness).

The fourth quarter was not pretty.

That could even be an understatement, the fourth saw both teams struggle to score. The Warriors floundered for 5 minutes of game time as they watched their lead dwindle periodically, courtesy of Kawhi Leonard free throws and a Kyle Lowry three pointer. Steph Curry picked up a Technical foul with a minute remaining and Toronto cut it to 5 as Kawhi made both free throws.

The Raptors locked down defensively and after 3 offensive rebound’s on the other end found Danny Green all alone in the corner, to no ones surprise the veteran shooting guard knocked it down and now we’ve got a game.

Warriors by 2.

Enter Andre Igoudala.

The Raptors pressed perfectly, forcing Steph Curry to the sideline and trapping as he picked up his dribble.

Without Kyle Lowry (6 Fouls) the Raptors fail to shrink the middle of the floor.

Eventually Curry finds Livingston who finds Igoudala on the left wing.

He sets his feet, tucks in his jersey, checks the wind, does his taxes and knocks in the 3 to set the game out of reach.

Final score: Warriors 109 – Raptors 104

This game told us more about both teams than most, certainly I, would have expected. Firstly, these Raptors are not the Raptors of old; they have been instilled with a belief that they cannot only hang with this Warriors juggernaut, but that they can actually win. This showed early as the team rallied around its veterans (Leonard, Gasol, Lowry), they defended the Warriors as well as any team thus far in these playoffs, but then, they inexplicably stopped. Whether it was Nick Nurse’s coaching or the player’s inability to focus for 48 minutes, the Raptors defense fell of a cliff in the beginning of the third quarter.

This Warriors team will punish any lapses in judgment, poise, or effort, they’re too skilled and too well coached to let mistakes like this go unpunished.  There were multiple instances of the Raptors miscommunicating on the Warriors’ staple plays, committing to double shooters off the ball leaving Draymond Green to either roll to the basket unimpeded or make a play in a 3 on 4 situations. Often this was a lob to Andrew Bogut who gave the warriors valuable minutes off the bench.

The Raptors showed their stripes as they clawed this game back within reach, feeding off the Toronto crowd and rallying behind the valiant Kawhi Leonard. But eventually climbing back into games against the Warriors means teams are too tired to finish it off, and that is what showed tonight. The Warriors were spectacular in the third quarter but were definitively average throughout the game. But with the talent differential between these two teams, the Raptors need to play two perfectly for 48 minutes. The Warriors have found something in their passing out of the center spot, Green and Cousins combined for 15 assists and took advantage of an area of weakness for the Raptors. The way the Raps respond heading to the Bay will be extremely telling, can players like Siakam and VanFleet operate at a high level? Will Kyle Lowry disappear?

For the Warriors, they’re heading home with a split series having played two subpar games. I would expect Curry to put together a full game of excellence, and for the peripheral pieces to contribute at a much higher clip.

And oh, also, Kevin Durant is expected back for game 3.

Now the fun begins.

Golden State Warriors:

Steph Curry 23 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds

Klay Thompson 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists

Draymond Green 17 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists

Toronto Raptors:

Kawhi Leonard 34 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists

Fred VanFleet 17 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists

Pascal Siakam 12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists

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