Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Morning Coffee – Tue, May 28

Green knows he has to keep shooting | Nurse has the guys chill | Playoff Lowry deserves Kawhi | Skip Bayless is old and salty

Green knows he has to keep shooting | Nurse has the guys chill | Playoff Lowry deserves Kawhi | Skip Bayless is old and salty

What the Raptors might be able to learn from the Warriors’ playoff past – The Athletic

The Warriors have been less dominant during this run than any of their four previous runs, posting their lowest net rating through three rounds (+6.2) and going down to the wire (relatively) 10 times already. Their defence has been uneven, and they required three double-digit comebacks against Portland.

That’s kind of the point, though — their offence remains so lethal, with or without Durant, that there’s absolutely no solace in a large lead. They were the best offence in the regular season and have remained so in the playoffs. They play with the type of offensive tempo the Raptors try to take away from teams — Golden State averaged 13.4 seconds per possession in the season and in the playoffs while the Raptors held opponents to 14.5 and 15, respectively. They have the second-lowest average time of possession in the playoffs, flying for quick shots on offence and then trying to slow their opponent down with scrambly, switchy defensive possessions. (That should sound familiar, although the Raptors tend to punt on the quick-shot idea if they can’t manage a good look in transition.)

The Raptors have to be ready for everything on that end. The Warriors’ deep history doesn’t reveal much that’s helpful outside of tempo control perhaps being an opportunity. Their history this year is a little more robust, at least showing that they’re beatable, if not stoppable on offence. It will require 48-minute efforts with the defensive attention and execution the Raptors used to close out the Bucks and even fewer slippages. They have to be ready for the inevitable counterpunches. At this level, against this opponent, so much has to break right. But the Raptors are better than the Clippers and different than the Rockets, and they have an opportunity in front of them to do what those teams couldn’t.

Nobody deserves the NBA Finals more than ‘Playoff Lowry’ – Yahoo

To casual observers that propagated the “Playoff Lowry” label, his clutch heroics and his 19-5-5 average in six games against the Bucks came as a surprise. But to loyal followers, this was just what Lowry had always done. Momentum-shifting 3s, daredevil drives, timely defensive stops, brilliant playmaking, and every hustle play imaginable — Lowry not only delivered a win during the most important game in franchise history, but he changed the narrative about his career.

It was always unfair to Lowry that he became the punchline in any discussion of the Raptors’ shortcomings. Just as he did in the regular season, Lowry was a huge net positive and maximized the talent around him in the playoffs. He came up short when he was miscast as a No. 1 option, but that speaks more to DeMar DeRozan’s repeated inability to perform in his role. And yet it was Lowry who gained a reputation for choking, while others skated by the criticism. Now that Leonard is doing the job that DeRozan couldn’t, Lowry has settled into a more suitable secondary role, and his contributions are finally being appreciated.

This should be the official record of Lowry’s tenure in Toronto: He is the heart and soul of the Raptors, and this run of six-straight postseason appearances would not be possible without him. The biggest break in Raptors history was James Dolan being too jaded by his previous dealings with Masai Ujiri to pull the trigger on a trade in 2013. Lowry had his bags packed for New York, but instead he stuck around, blossomed into a star, and took the Raptors from the basement to the top.

Lowry always sacrificed for the sake of winning. He was first the little pitbull that somehow bum-rushed his way to the hoop, but Lowry eventually developed into one of the most prolific shooters in the league when he rounded into his 30s. When DeRozan emerged as a ball-dominant wing, Lowry learned to be effective playing off the ball. And when Leonard arrived along with Siakam’s breakout, Lowry again changed his role to become one of the best passers in the game.

There’s a reason why Lowry is the lone holdover from their first playoff run in 2014. DeRozan gave way to Leonard, Jonas Valanciunas became Marc Gasol, Terrence Ross was flipped for Serge Ibaka, and Dwane Casey was replaced by Nick Nurse, all because the Raptors needed upgrades at those positions to win at the highest level. Lowry stayed because the Raptors maintained that he could be the engine of a championship contender so long as they surrounded him with the right pieces, and now their faith in Lowry has been rewarded.

That’s why there was such an outpouring of emotion inside Scotiabank Arena when Lowry finally got his hands on that elusive Eastern Conference championship trophy. He was always a winner despite his reputation, and nobody deserved to be in the Finals more than “Playoff Lowry.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4wM2Piutqs

Battle-tested Raptors enter NBA Finals with chemistry forged by adversity – Sportsnet.ca

It has happened organically – there hasn’t been a lot of time since training camp for ‘team building’. In the NBA things come fast. The best way to build unity is to have a shared purpose amongst a core of like-minded veterans, salted with the day-in-day-out sameness of life in the NBA.

“… The one thing about [this league] is you’re around each other every day,” said Kyle Lowry, the longest serving Raptor. “Literally around each other every day, hours at a time. You travel together, you stay at the same hotels. It’s just a simple everyday life that being around each other you’re going to get on the same page, you’re going to have conversations, you’re going to be cool.”

Stability and continuity was the advantage past Raptors teams had, it may have allowed them to exceed their overall talent in previous years. But after a 59-win season a year ago ended in a second consecutive second-round sweep, Raptors president Masai Ujiri opted to disrupt things – but he only took it so far.

In firing Dwane Casey Ujiri and replacing him with Nick Nurse, who had five years as an assistant coach with the organization. In trading DeMar DeRozan Ujiri and adding not only Kawhi Leonard but Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs – one of Leonard’s best friends from his old team. The pair brought not only their talent but a team-first ethic that was part of the Spurs culture and has fit in well in Toronto.

“We’ve been a team since Day One,” said Raptors wing Norman Powell, the longest-serving Raptor after Lowry. “The guys we brought in came from a great organization, really close knit organization with the Spurs so it was easy to bring those guys in and the guys that have always been have always preached family so bringing those guys in was really easy.”

Whether he stays or goes, Leonard’s Raptors legacy lives on – TSN.ca

Of Toronto’s top-18 all-time individual playoff performances by game score, according to basketball-reference, eight of them belong to Leonard. That doesn’t even include Game 7 against Philadelphia – ranked 26th – which ended with him hitting the biggest shot in franchise history, because he shot an uncommonly inefficient 16-for-39.

Although Carter owns the top spot – his 50-point gem against the 76ers in 2001 – he’s only responsible for two of those top-18 games. DeRozan and Lowry each have three games on that list, while Chris Bosh and Pascal Siakam have one apiece.

For at least three years in the late ’90s and early 2000s Carter was must-see TV. He might have been the brightest young star in the NBA, and although he was trending towards becoming one of the league’s best players he never quite reached that level, at least not in Toronto.

Carter never finished higher than 10th in MVP voting, trumped by the likes of Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, among others. DeRozan finished eighth in MVP voting last season.

Even after missing a quarter of the season, Leonard should crack the top-5 this year and could have conceivably pushed Antetokounmpo and James Harden for the award if that had been a priority.

Healthy and at his best, Leonard is the best two-way player in the league, and that distinction – which he’s possessed for some time – might not even do him justice anymore. Based on his play this postseason some have made the argument that he’s currently the best player in basketball. There’s a case to be made.

Of course, if he is the best Raptor ever, the question becomes: what if he’s not a Raptor much longer? Leonard will hit free agency in just over a month and speculating where he might end up seems like wasted energy. The truth is, nobody knows. Leonard and his camp may not even know.

If he re-signs with Toronto, his legacy will grow even bigger the moment the pen touches paper. If he leaves, none of this changes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv1cihX4MmU

Raptors’ hopes will rise with temperatures of their long-range shooters | The Star

So what is Green’s strategy as he approaches his third career trip to the final? He said Monday he’s determined to keep shooting, and he’s trying not to think about his slump. But the latter is easier said than done.

“It’s hard not to think about it because everybody in the world’s telling you, ‘Don’t think about it.’ Everybody you come across, ‘Keep shooting it, ’” Green said Monday. “Trust me, I’m going to keep shooting. Don’t think about it, though? I’m trying not to. I keep glancing at my inbox — you keep reminding me.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse offered a hopeful theory: Just as Norman Powell was a non-factor against the Sixers before re-emerging as a valuable contributor against the Bucks, perhaps Green will use the change of opposing scenery as a helpful reset.

“Maybe that Milwaukee series didn’t suit Danny for some reason,” Nurse said, “and maybe this one will.”

You can understand why Nurse is hoping a new series will refocus Green’s shooting eye. Attempting to beat the Warriors, the first NBA team to compete in five straight NBA finals in more than half a century, isn’t going to be like ousting the Sixers and Bucks. Against those teams, the Raptors begged the opponent’s best players to shoot from the outside, walling off the paint against the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. But that approach won’t work against the Warriors, whose stars, especially Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, make their multi-millions beyond the arc. In other words: Toronto’s perimeter defence needs to be impeccable. Green and VanVleet are two of Toronto’s best perimeter defenders. But it’s tough for a coach to play a guy whose shooting hand is beyond cold, which helps explain why Green, who is averaging about 29 minutes a game in the playoffs, saw about half that in Games 5 and 6 of the East final.

Still, if Green is looking for tips on busting his slump – and he’ll contact you, don’t text him – he’s got a walking example in VanVleet. Before VanVleet reeled off his series-changing shooting spree against Milwaukee, he’d missed 22 of his previous 25 attempts.

“We don’t worry about Danny. He’s proven,” VanVleet said. “But he’s kind of caught up in the same place I was.”

Raptors’ Patrick McCaw explains his mysterious departure from Warriors – The Undefeated

McCaw believes the Raptors can win the title over his former team.

“It’s going to be crazy, just the first game lining up against them,” McCaw said. “I haven’t played against them all season. I haven’t been there with them since we won in Cleveland. The last time I saw them, I was playing with the Warriors. The first game? A lot of emotions. I’m ready for it. I’m excited. …

“We got a shot. They have to come here first. That’s a big advantage. My first two years, [the Warriors] always had home-court [advantage], if I’m not mistaken. That is definitely an advantage for [Toronto].”

McCaw could become the third player in NBA history to play in a Finals one season, then return to the Finals in the other conference the following season, according to Elias. Steve Mix played for the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1982 Finals and for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1983 Finals. And Warriors head coach Steve Kerr played for the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 Finals and the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Finals.

McCaw said he talks regularly to Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Quinn Cook and Damian Jones. But he is bracing for a tough reaction from Warriors fans, who also took exception to a social media posting McCaw made Saturday night in which he boasted about making it to three straight Finals.

“I don’t know if they’re going to be booing me or what,” McCaw said. “But I’m excited to go back, for real. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited to see what happens in that type of atmosphere. I know what to expect from the fans.

“This s— is crazy. Never would I have thought this. It’s unbelievable.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU4BOFCNVSI

Raptors’ Green on slump — ‘Just keep shooting’ – ESPN

On top of that, Green is one of several key Raptors — along with Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol — who has faced Golden State in the postseason. That institutional knowledge is something Raptors coach Nick Nurse is hoping to lean on as he begins preparing to try to slow down the two-time defending champions ahead of Game 1 here at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night.

“Yeah, I think it helps, obviously,” Nurse said, adding that assistant Adrian Griffin also has faced the Warriors multiple times after working under Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City the past two seasons. “I think the one big thing that you need to go in there with is that you can guard them, right, and those guys at least have played them.

“There’s a lot of good ideas from a lot of guys, and we certainly open our ears and listen to our guys. Why wouldn’t you, man?

“They’re the ones out there. They’re the ones that have been through it already.”

As the series against the Bucks wore on, though, Green was out there less and less. The Raptors simply couldn’t afford to see him miss shot after shot.

Toronto will be hoping that a new opponent and a new series will allow Green to get back to what he spent all season doing for the Raptors: making shots.

For Toronto to have a chance, they’ll need him to.

“I think it’s a new series for Danny,” Lowry said. “I think that series happened a certain way. It’s over with now. I don’t think that even matters. I don’t think anything that happened the last series matters, besides us finding ways to win games. That’s what we take from that series. Danny will be fine.

“Game 1, he’ll be ready to go.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfmajsujQSU

Enough already, Raptors’ Green knows what he has to do | Toronto Sun

We’re sure Green is appreciative of all the love and advice in difficult circumstances. But we also get his frustration level. Consider your own job, something you probably do better than most people you know, and then have everyone in your life and many people not in your life weigh in with what you should be doing. It would be maddening.

Green is no different. He just does his job in front of cameras and has an entire nation — and then some — counting on him.

All that aside, Green made it very clear he wants nothing more than to put this slump to bed once and for all.

Green hasn’t made a three-pointer since Game 3 of the six-game Milwaukee series. In that series he made just 4-of-23 threes.

He had two good shooting games and five sub-par shooting games in the previous seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal win over Philadelphia. For the series he was 13-for-35 from deep, which isn’t a bad 37% rate but then the Milwaukee series began and the numbers started to plummet.

But now the Raptors are up against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. This is a team that is scoring over 117 points a game in the playoffs and has been missing Kevin Durant for the past five games.

In short, the Raptors are going to need every offensive weapon in their arsenal — and that includes Green.

The hope is a new opponent and an extended rest period in between series will do the trick for Green.

WOLSTAT: Lots of respect for Warriors from Raptors’ Nurse | Toronto Sun

IFS AND BUTS

Danny Green didn’t want to dwell much on a 2017 playoff meeting with Golden State. San Antonio was up big in the opener with Leonard dominating, before he got injured on a dirty play committed by Zaza Pachulia. The Warriors rallied and took the series.

“Would’a could’a should’a. It’s hard to say,” Green said when asked if he thought the result would have changed had Leonard been healthy.

“I think we had a good chance of winning Game 1 for sure. And certain games can change the series, you never know, but it would have been nice to see or it would have been interesting to find out if he was, if we had a healthy Kawhi. But he wasn’t so we had to go without him and figure it out from there. And we lost to a really good team, it wasn’t meant for us to win that year or for us to be a hundred percent healthy.” Green said that first half was about the best he had seen Leonard ever play to that point and it’s a shame that he got hurt.

Pachulia is no longer with the Warriors, and Jonas Valanciunas is not with the Raptors. Green broke Valanciunas’s finger earlier this season, though that was a basketball play, unlike Pachulia’s nonsense.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse handles playoff thrills with usual chill | The Star

It’s not that Nurse is entirely “chill” or unable to summon the anger coaches need to hammer home points to underperforming players.

“It’s only been one or two times this whole year that he’s kind of showed that side,” Lowry said. “And if he starts to scream too much, he loses his voice. Seriously … he can’t do it so much.”

But it’s not the norm, and that makes it more effective. His default position is, “OK, this isn’t working, let’s find out what does,” and the Raptors go from there. It comes from his background as a head coach in a series of G League and British League outposts, a mindset that is part of him.

“I think that’s the one thing about him, he’s always been the head coach type,” Lowry said. “I think he’s always kind of thought that way about himself, and he approached the game that way as a head coach.”

Nurse will be up against one of the brightest coaching minds in the league in Golden State’s Steve Kerr when the final kicks off Thursday at the Scotiabank Arena and it’s hard to think of two more different styles at work.

Kerr is an open book, willing to speak on social issues and events away from the game, and his liberal-leaning world view is well known and easy to identify.

Nurse, who has lived in North America and Britain and who has coached around the world, likely has as many opinions and views as Kerr but he keeps them close to the vest. He’s not an open book because he doesn’t want to be and, really, who cares as long as he does his job well.

Even asking him if the ying and yang of coaching the post-season is “fun,” with so many on-the-fly adjustments to make and emotions to manage, doesn’t get a rise out of him.

“I guess I enjoy it. It’s part of it,” he said. “I think that stuff is going on all the time, and it’s just kind of reading the moment and what you need, and sometimes you’re really right with your ideas and sometimes you’re not. And if you’re not, you’ve got to quickly go to something else.”

Calmly. Chill.

Raptors put Eastern Conference win in the rearview with sights set on the Warriors – Yahoo

“This will be a whole other project,” Nurse said of the challenge that lies ahead. “It’s a different team that plays a different way.”

The Golden State Warriors don’t need any formal introduction. They are the two-time defending NBA champions and are making their fifth consecutive Finals appearance. During this run, they’ve lost one playoff series. That would be the 3-1 comeback by the Cavs in the 2016 NBA Finals. Even with Kevin Durant out for at least Game 1 of this series, the Warriors present an entirely different set of challenges than the Raptors have faced in the postseason. Toronto knows their defense will have to continue to perform at an elite level to have a chance in this series.

“Every game we play presents a different challenge,” Gasol said. “And there are wrinkles [to the defense], a lot of those wrinkles are new to us, not as players, but as a team. How we approach those new challenges is what defines you. Every time we’ve hit a challenge, something that was thrown at us, we’ve reacted pretty good.”

Against the Magic, the Raptors rebounded from a Game 1 loss and a late game defensive miscommunication between Gasol and Kawhi Leonard and won the next four games. Against the Sixers, the Raptors trailed 2-1 but rallied to win the series in seven. Against the Bucks, Toronto overcame a 2-0 deficit and won four straight against a Milwaukee team that had lost consecutive games just once all season heading into the series. The Raptors are a resilient team, and they know it will be important to continue their defensive identity in the Finals.

“It’s about mindset and trusting the guy next to you,” Gasol said. “Trusting your voice, trusting where you’re at on the floor. Mentally, nobody got down [against Milwaukee]. Everybody played one possession at a time, even though things weren’t going well for us at times, we grinded it out.”

Kyle Lowry listed several factors that have contributed to Toronto’s success on the defensive end. “The ability to change on the fly,” Lowry said, “and being really disciplined and committing to what we want to do.”

They’ll need to carry the connectivity and adaptability over to this series starting on Thursday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d5LtwyXpJY

Position-by-Position 2019 NBA Finals Preview | Bleacher Report

The Benches

The injuries to Durant and Cousins have depleted Golden State’s already shaky bench, forcing Iguodala and one of Bell, Looney and Jones into the starting lineup. Shaun Livingston can still knock down a mid-range shot, but he isn’t the all-around threat off the bench he was at the beginning of Golden State’s run.

Toronto’s bench, meanwhile, has stepped up big in the playoffs.

Serge Ibaka is still impactful on the defensive end, while reserve guard Fred VanVleet caught fire from three-point range in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. VanVleet’s hot shooting may not be sustainable, but he and forward Norman Powell are still more reliable options than anyone on this version of Golden State’s bench.

Both teams’ starters will have to do most of the heavy lifting in the Finals, but Toronto has more reliable contributors in the second unit. That could prove a massive advantage, especially if Durant takes longer than anticipated to return for the Warriors.

Advantage: Toronto

NBA Finals: Raptors face tough test vs Golden State Warriors | SI.com

When Golden State closes with some version of a death lineup—assuming Andre Iguodala is healthy—I think the Raptors should consider going even smaller. In the fourth quarter, Toronto’s main focus will be trying to slow down the Steph-Draymond Green pick and roll. The Blazers and Rockets both most often trapped Curry, and he made them pay by dumping the ball to Green and letting him play four-on-three. When the Cavs beat the non-Durant Warriors in 2016, they had their most success switching onto Curry, and the Raptors may be best served following that plan.

I really wonder if we’ll see a Lowry, Leonard, Green, Siakam and Fred VanVleet lineup in this series. It’s not a unit Toronto really used in the regular season, but it makes some level of sense. Siakam can guard Draymond, while Kawhi or Danny Green can take Steph, and then the Steph-Dray action becomes switchable. Kawhi can also check Dray and Green can take Curry if Toronto is committed to switching, which would also allow Leonard to roam a little bit off ball. Danny Green or Lowry can chase around Klay. VanVleet can get away with hiding on Iguodala if Iggy is parked in the corner.

Those are just a few early thoughts on how the Raptors can start to counter the Warriors. Nick Nurse has undoubtedly weighed every option. And all of this is subject to change depending on Golden State’s health. If Boogie starts, that may require some more bulk. If Iguodala is out, the Raptors probably won’t need to go very small. When (if?) Durant returns, Toronto is in a bad spot no matter what. What’s for certain is that even though the Raptors have been a great defensive team all year long—and just put the clamps on an MVP finalist—they will need a whole new gameplan to slow down the Warriors. No team has had a great answer for Golden State over the last five years, but Toronto could have the flexibility to make things interesting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLXUyctKO0M

Thompson: The Warriors already shut the trap on Harden and Lillard — is Kawhi Leonard next? – The Athletic

Blitzing Leonard — Kawhi, not Meyers — might not be so easy in the Finals matchup against his Toronto Raptors. It would seem like an easy call since he plays such a dominant role on offense. The Raptors’ supporting cast has looked ineffective often in these playoffs, leaving Leonard to carry them.

However, trapping Leonard potentially gives point guard Kyle Lowry the 4-on-3 opportunity. He is a proven playmaker and is perhaps even better at attacking and setting up teammates than creating offense for himself. Marc Gasol, the starting center, is also a good passer who could theoretically hurt the Warriors with a man advantage.

And with the way Fred VanVleet has been shooting and the way Danny Green has shot against the Warriors in the past, you can expect the Warriors to be cautious about giving them open looks, which can be created out of a trap with good passing.

It also might be worthwhile to make Leonard, who is hobbling and has looked like he’s been carrying a country on his back, continue working hard for every shot. His efficiency decreased against the Bucks, as he shot 44.2 percent from the field, down from 53.9 percent heading into the Eastern Conference finals.

Even if the Warriors don’t use a steady diet of trapping, it is part of their repertoire now. It’s another wrinkle in a defense that has already proven to be one of the best when it locks in. With Iguodala playing more minutes, the Warriors have found their defensive groove at the right time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElGuSivCVUo

Numbers preview: The Finals – Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors | NBA.com

Raptors postseason notes – Offense:

10-0 when they’ve scored at least 104 points per 100 possessions and 2-6 otherwise.

18.1 percent of their possessions, the second-highest rate in the postseason, have been in transition, according to Synergy play-type tracking. But 21 percent of their shots, also the second highest rate, have come in the last six seconds of the shot clock, according to Second Spectrum tracking.

Rank fifth in the playoffs in ball movement (327 passes per 24 minutes of possessions) and 12th in player movement (10.8 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking. Rank third with 3.7 secondary assists per game.

Rank fifth in both 3-point percentage (34.5 percent) and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (40.6 percent) in the playoffs. If The Finals were to go to at least five games, they’re on pace to break the 2016 Warriors’ postseason record of 306 total 3-pointers made.

Have attempted 29.6 catch-and-shoot jumpers per game, second most in the playoffs. Their effective field goal percentage on those jumpers (50.7 percent) ranks ninth.

Rank second in free throw percentage (81.8 percent), right behind the Warriors (81.9 percent), though both teams have been outscored at the free throw line over the course of the postseason.

Have scored a postseason-best 1.20 points per possession on hand-offs, though they’ve averaged only 3.3 hand-off possessions per game (second fewest in the postseason).

Raptors set their sights on a new goal after reaching NBA Finals – Video – TSN

When Kawhi Leonard joined the Raptors in the offseason, the team’s goal was to win the Eastern Conference and make it to the NBA Finals. With that box now checked, the Raptors have a new goal to work towards and it all begins in Toronto on Thursday. Josh Lewenberg has more.