- The Raptors, without Kawhi Leonard, competed incredibly hard and dominated the Warriors in a 20 point road win at Oracle Arena.
- The Raptors defensive intensity and aggressiveness within their game plan prevented the Warriors from dictating the pace of the game. The Raptors made life as difficult as possible for Curry and KD on the offensive end by constantly bringing help early when they attacked the rim, and by strategically sagging off of their non-shooting bigs (Green and Looney).
- KD had to work very hard for his 30 points, but the Raptors were able to hold Curry to just 10 points and 2-8 from 3. They also forced the duo into 9 combined turnovers.
- Offensively, the Raptors did a great job of playing at a very high pace and therefore limiting their need to execute in the half court.
- When the game slowed down and the Raptors had to execute, Lowry was able to effectively create against the switch of the ball screen, and when the Warriors didn’t switch, the Raptors burned them on the roll.
- The Raptors attacked Steph Curry on the defensive end, mainly with Danny Green posting him up.
- Kyle Lowry was as aggressive offensively as I’ve seen him in a long time, constantly pushing the pace and attacking. He was more successful in 1 on 1 situations in this game than any game this season.
- The Raptors game plan wasn’t anything spectacular – make KD and Curry uncomfortable by bringing help early off of their non-shooting bigs – however, their execution of the game plan was phenomenal.
- Fred Van Vleet was physical with Curry off the ball all night and didn’t allow him to consistently create the separation that he is so accustomed to getting. Siakam did his best to force KD off the 3 point line and either get to the rim or hit pull ups over the Raptors big.
- The most impressive part of their defensive performance to me was how well the Raptors understood the scout and attacked the Warriors while staying within their plan. It’s striking in the clips below how aware the Raptors are of the GSW personnel – they know who to help off of, who to help against, and when to help – which is difficult task against against a team with so much talent that plays at such a high pace. Let’s take a look at clips of the Raptors helping off the non-shooters, and how they defended both Curry and Durant:
A few things to look for in these clips:
- Notice how VanVleet never lets up defensively. He picks up full court, fights over every screen, never gets out of stance while covering down screens, and is physical with Curry whenever he has the chance.
- The Raptors constantly force Curry to either put the ball down, or cut back door. They don’t give him the same opportunities to dance behind the 3 as he would like.
- When the Raptors bring help and Curry is a passer, notice who he is passing to. In all of these clips, he is never assisting KD or Klay Thompson. The Raptors are funnelling him into help and leaving the non-threats open.
The main thing to notice in these clips is how Durant is being forced to score. Whether it be Siakam or another Raptors defender, they are forcing him to get inside the 3, where the Raptors bigs are stepping up and the wings are digging down. KD is an incredible offensive talent, and as you can see in these clips, he is going to score regardless of how you play him. What the Raptors did, however, was limit his creativity. They forced KD to beat them the way the Raptors wanted him to and didn’t let him dictate how he was going to score, and you could see it frustrate him as the game went on. KD ended up with as many turnovers (5) as assists.
- It can’t go without saying that the Warriors missed many very good looks. I counted 8 shots throughout the game that I considered to be wide open for KD, Klay and Steph, that usually drop. However, the poor shooting night can be attributed to the Raptors intensity and compete level. If you make offensive players feel uncomfortable, take away their freedom, and force them into tough shots, they are going to have off nights.
- In the first quarter, the Raptors were fantastic in transition. Danny Green said after the game that their focus offensively was to push the pace and create good looks for themselves out of transition, and they set the tempo for the game in the first quarter:
The Raptors scored 11 points in the first quarter out of transition situations, and a major contributor to that was the aforementioned defensive performance which led to many missed shots and turnovers which allowed them to get out and run early. In the clips above, notice the consistency with which the Raptors bust out in transition – all 5 guys are running hard and with a purpose, their wings are running wide, their 4 or 5’s are running to the rim, and they are aggressive with their opportunities.
- In the second quarter, the pace of the game slowed down. The Raptors had much less success scoring in transition (2 points), but found success in the ball screen. The Warriors defended the ball screen with a combination of switching and dropping their big, and it seemed as if they tried to switch on the drop if the guard got caught up in the screen. Either way, the Warriors had a lot of trouble handling JV and Serge on the roll in the 2nd quarter:
Whenever the Warriors didn’t switch, the bigs did an excellent job of capitalizing on their opportunities in the roll. You’ll notice in these clips that the Warriors either bring help too late, or bring help too low and allow JV and Serge to comfortable make plays on the roll. The lack of help on the roll was likely to limit kick out opportunities for the Raptors shooters.
- The Raptors scored 10 of their 25 third quarter points by attacking Curry on the defensive end. Curry has physical limitations which make him vulnerable defensively, but has been able to offset some of those issues with good anticipation and effort. However, in the third quarter, he couldn’t contain his matchups:
For the most part, the Raptors went after Curry in the post. Until the Warriors brought a double, Steph couldn’t stop Danny 1 on 1, and when they brought the double, Ibaka made them pay. Lowry also put Curry in a ball screen situation in which he gave up a clear lane to the rim (he looked confused), and VanVleet blew by him for an easy layup on a back door cut.
- The final key takeaway from the Raptors offensive performance in this game was Lowry’s ability to create in 1 on 1 situations against a switching defense. Lowry’s biggest struggle offensively is his ability to create for himself when the game slows down – a trend which usually comes to light in the playoffs when the games become much more strategic and the pace slows. However with no Kawhi in this game, Lowry became the de facto creator and needed to create against his matchup when the Warriors switched the ball screen:
You can tell in these clips what I mean about Lowry struggling to create for himself – he is not shifty with the ball in his hands in a confined area, and can’t create space off the dribble the way that some other elite PG’s can. However, he created enough space in this game to get his shots off on the switch and he also used his shot fake able to get by the defending big. He did well enough to keep the Warriors bigs honest, a trend that must continue going forward. The Raptors destroy teams who handle the ball screen by dropping or hedging, and they will need to be able to punish teams who switch to keep their ball screen advantage.
- The Raptors started Lowry on Draymond Green, which was a great move. Lowry anticipates the game on the defensive end as well as anyone in the league, and by putting him on Draymond it allowed him to help more freely and be a playmaker on defense. You’d think that the Warriors would punish this matchup with Green’s size advantage, but Green rarely attacked Lowry, and that’s likely because he knows that any shot he takes is a shot that KD, Curry and Klay aren’t taking.