Raptors Republic has had plenty of series previewing, but it’s time to hear from everyone! With no further ado, the roundtable.
1) Where were you when the Raptors secured their spot in the finals?
I was on my couch, frantically converting an mp3 file of Kawhi’s dunk over Giannis, so I could use it as an intro for the reaction podcast. Poe/Little Louis Zatzman/Scout was cuddled beside me, I had a stupidly large grin on my face, and everything seemed right in the world.
At home – I enjoyed the celebration from afar, but I can’t be around people while the Raptors play.
I was at the game, sitting 10 rows from courtside and covered in beer because of the dude sitting behind me. Didn’t care!
Huddled in front of a 14” monitor watching the game with my parents who don’t have a TV. When your parents invite you for dinner you can’t say no. Doesn’t matter what the occasion.
At a bar in Little India in the east end of Toronto, watching on a television with a digital jukebox screen directly beside it that cycled through Elton John’s snarl-grin face and Neil Young doing something boring with another, smaller screen below the TV that would occasionally, inexplicably, show nature footage including fawns that helped fuel my bloodlust. My husband and I walked home on shaky legs through the fogged out streets and parks, car horns honking from everywhere, firecrackers going off in the mist, it was really nice.
At some point during this playoff run I became not fun to be around while watching the games. So I was alone in my basement when the Raptors clinched their spot, which was perfect, because it allowed me the freedom to act like a lunatic and ignore what they call “normal social behaviour.”
At my small apartment in Mississauga, sitting by myself in front of my television, a blanket wrapped around my body just to have something to grip onto.
As soon as the final buzzer sounded, however, I hopped in a car with a buddy of mine and we drove downtown into the madness, hollering and cheering and honking along with the rest of the masses.
The entire sequence was dreamlike.
I’ll never forget it.
I watched the game pacing in my bedroom as my wife hosted a friend in our living room. She occasionally popped in to check on me and ask how the game was going. The final time that she walked in was after a big scream, and when entering the room she found me with arms raised and tears falling down my face. The Raptors had won, and Canada will host game 1 of the NBA Finals. Life is good.
I watch most games at home, which is where I was for game 6. I find it easier to deal with my stress in a quieter environment, and stressed I was. My wonderful wife who is not a basketball fan was around, but not really watching the game, although she seemed a little more interested in this one than most Raptors games to this point. I do wish that I had been in Toronto for this one though, not so much for the game itself as for the experience in the city afterwords, which looked truly unique and wonderful.
I was in my apartment with a number of my varsity teammates. Each one of us had grown up a Raptors fan, so we all had one or more pieces of memorabilia on. As much as I wanted to break the bank to attend the game, it felt right consuming such a monumental moment the same way I had spent countless Raptors’ moments before: among friends.
The party started at noon, ended at sunrise, and took place in the neighbourhood I grew up in. At least I think that’s accurate, I’m still in rough shape. As for when their spot was secured, picture a surreal moment of silence before we all basically trashed the place!!
I was exactly where I wanted to be at 9pm: at home on my couch, sitting next to my girlfriend who has suffered through a lot of terrible Raptors games over the last fifteen years because of me, so this felt like a certain kind of payoff. I don’t like a lot of distractions when I’m watching hoops.
I was in a Boston Pizza in Mississauga with a couple of buddies. We showed up at halftime after another place was too full, so we couldn’t get a seats at the bar and were forced to sit in the regular dining area. There were regular families quietly eating dinner in the background, which was hilarious because the area we were sitting in was about 40-50 people yelling and screaming at a giant projected screen, and busting out into a Lets Go Raptors chant every now and then. When the game was over, people were actually jumping up and down and screaming at their tables. It was absolutely incredible.
The Fox and the Fiddle bar on St. Clair West with some old friends from high school. When Kawhi dunked on Giannis I had to take a lap.
I was at home with the girlfriend because I was writing on the game, I don’t I think moved from my spot on the couch for another hour or so after the win because I was just in shock and awe.
I was at a bar on Bloor with some of my closest friends. Usually I don’t trust myself to watch in public, especially during these high-pressure moments. But I just had a feeling something special was going to happen, and I wanted to be in an electric environment when it did. When I think back on sporting moments I’ll never forget, so far it’s: Crosby’s golden goal, Bautista’s bat flip & that Kawhi breakaway slam. My ears are still ringing.
With the BBoyz who pretty much all have been die hard fans since the franchise started. There were tears, laughter, and people pinching each other to ensure we weren’t dreaming.
I was at the game! Watching that game was one of the wildest experiences of my life, so it spawned one of the wildest pieces of writing of my life.
2) We’ve talked a lot about Kawhi’s historic playoffs, but how would you describe Lowry’s playoff run so far?
Inspiring, in a few different ways. Most of the staff has talked about Lowry glowingly, and I’m no different. It is, however, kind’ve difficult to write about sneaky back-screens over and over, or even highlight how he travels after every defensive rebound because he’s trying to keep the ball in his passing pocket for as long as possible before putting the ball down; trying to squeeze every inch of potential out of the Raptors transition game as possible. His resurgence from downtown, the relentless attacking that ended up with free throws, and his thorough domination of the Bledsoe matchup on offense is a bigger reason for the Raptors victory than a 14-17 3-point shooting run from VanVleet.
Lowry’s been one of the most underrated players in the league for some time now. A sneaky barometer to test out someone’s basketball intelligence. It’s really wonderful that we might not have to attribute little things to him anymore (we still will) but instead, we can point to his latest accomplishments, which are not little at all.
So satisfying that he’s playing how we all knew he could and did throughout his entire Raptors tenure. The two standing ovations he got that interrupted his ECF ceremony speech were fitting and well deserved. That’s how well he’s played – the Raptors are going to the NBA Finals and the crowd erupted to cheer his name.
Lowry has been equally fantastic in his own way to Leonard. The defense, hustle, game management have all been there; took some time for his shot to come, but it’s been timely and on point since Game 1 of the ECF.
He’s grown comfortable knowing that he’s not a world-beater on offense and has realized that he can be equally impactful in many other ways. He’s grown as a leader in that he keeps his composure in key moments and leads by example. His scores are timely, his defense even more so, and I feel a general sense of calm when he’s on the court knowing that he’ll make the right pass. You couldn’t say that a couple years ago. Having being separated from DeMar DeRozan and playing with a true superstar probably mellowed him out a little too, and he saw the reasoning behind Masai Ujiri’s move. The ill-tempered Kyle is no more, and what’s replaced him his John Stockton-lite.
Comeuppance. At least to those who forgot for a minute who Lowry is and what he can do. He’s such a human player which can feel strange sometimes when watching such a superhuman sport, and when he pulls himself out from lags and slumps it is very visceral, you can see it happening. He’s continued building on that momentum and he’s playing so smart right now, with a mix of patience and razor-correct doggedness when needed, it feels very special. Really important.
Lowry’s playoff run has been glorious. Outside of Kawhi Lowry has easily been the most consistent and dependable player throughout the playoffs (no?). That smile when the clock was winding down in Game 6 will always stay with me.
The best of his career. At age 33 and with so many questions lurking within the dark of the upcoming offseason, there’s a good chance Lowry knows that this may be his last real shot at winning a title.
He’s done all of the things he does best, acting as a pest on defence, running the pick-and-roll to perfection on offence, hitting timely shots, making typical high IQ plays (anyone else shed a tear at him muscling deep into the paint and then finding the trailer for a dunk à la his days with DeRozan?), and hustling to take charges, diving for loose balls, etc. like no other player.
The Raptors have been 19.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor during these playoffs. That, in a line, probably sums up his value to the team better than anything else.
Oh, and keep in mind he’s been doing this for a while now with a dislocated thumb.
We should really have a better term for a sidekick than Robin. Robin sucked. Heck, even Batman isn’t all that great in most renditions. But what Lowry has done in this playoff run has been the highest level of secondary star we could ask for. He has played through injury, shot well, battled on defence, drawn charges (classic), ran the offence to perfection to create open looks for himself or others, and was a man possessed with the goal of an NBA Championship. The play that will always stick in my mind is Lowry diving for a loose ball not once, but twice on the same play, eventually knocking the ball forward to Kawhi in open space. He went all out and deserved his name being chanted for all he has meant to this franchise.
Quintessential KLOE. Everything we’ve come to love about Lowry over the course of his time with the Raptors, magnified. The focus has been on the scoring he provided against Milwaukee, which was fantastic, but all of the other stuff he does is what defines him. The willingness to put his own body on the line to help the team, sometimes to a seemingly absurd level, is just incredible to watch and what makes him so valuable. He comes through so often when the team needs a shot of energy with a big play somewhere on the floor to help bring the game back, and he can make those impact plays everywhere, at every level of the game. It’s a joy witnessing the world come to terms with how good he actually is, and it was doubly so watching him get to experience that moment of pure bliss at the end of game 6. Kyle Lowry is one of my favorite players I’ve ever had the privilege of watching.
While there have certainly been a few down moments, Lowry’s performed excellently thus far. Besides his perpetually frantic defensive intensity and superb game management, for the second year in a row, Lowry’s efficiency has risen in the playoffs. Through 18 games, his 58.6 true-shooting percentage has him on pace for the second most efficient playoffs of his career.
It’s safe to say that Lowry has officially answered every single critic. Myself included. I mean, have we ever seen him this clutch and composed before? Kawhi’s machine-like dominance will always come to mind first, but Lowry holding the fort down in between will forever be remembered. Even more so considering the rest of the supporting cast showed up fashionably late. All in all, not too many players become a leader in the playoffs after their role in the regular season was taken down a notch.
Kawhi’s play has been stellar, but Lowry remains what he’s always been: the engine that makes the Raptors go. Especially as the Playoffs have gone on, he’s been orchestrating the attack, keeping everyone fed, and hustling in ways that are totally against the best needs of his body but essential for his team. If Milwaukee was missing anything against Toronto, it was theirLowry, that All-Star that wills his team with ‘whatever is necessary’ kind of play.
It’s been a more consistent, steady experience with Lowry this around. The guy has come through time and time again this post season, with big plays all over the floor. Sure, he still had a 0-point game in the playoffs, but that game feels like years ago right now and the up-and-down variance of his game that we used to see before has significantly improved. Without having to shoulder the scoring load as much as in playoffs past, he’s has let the game come more naturally to him and it’s honestly so refreshing to see. I think this supporting leadership role was the role Kyle was always meant to play on a Championship-caliber team.
Lowry has been getting better as the playoffs go along. His leadership, especially on the defensive end, is crucial to this team making it to the Finals. And he picked it up as a 2nd scoring option against the Bucks as Siakam, Green, and Gasol all struggled. He is one of the smartest players in basketball and he understands what his team needs from him every game and tries his best to execute. The Raptors wouldn’t be here without Lowry playing this well.
I think this playoff run has allowed viewers to fully understand who Lowry is as a player today. The role he has on this team is what he should have always been on a championship team – the dependable, emotional leader with a lightened offensive load that frees him to make winning plays in truly KLOE manner. Lowry was never destined to be the high-usage bucket getter for a title contender, his lack of size is simply too big of an obstacle in the playoffs, which is why Kawhi Leonard’s inclusion puts Lowry in a position to be his truest self.
Feisty. Hungry. Earned.
Kyle didn’t have the prettiest start to the 2019 NBA Playoffs, but as the stakes have gotten bigger, so have his performances. He sacrifices his body like a punt returner, his stoic personality is a calming presence for his teammates and (when he feels like it) can be pretty damn potent offensively. He doesn’t get a lot of press, or as much credit as he probably should, but if there’s no Kyle Lowry, there’s no Raptors Finals berth.
Nothing Kyle Lowry does surprises me anymore. I never felt he deserved the mantle of playoff choker in the first place. While Kawhi is the deity in Toronto, Lowry remains the heart and soul of this team. Case in point, during the fourth quarter run in Game 6 versus the Bucks his hands are all over it. Lowry feeds Norm for his triple. On the next play, he grabs the rebound. He executes a perfect pass leading Ibaka to the basket for the flush. Tips the ball to Norm for a key rebound. Takes the charge on Brogdon. Was the key defender who blocked the paint on Bledsoe’s drive and fed Ibaka again. Then capped it all off with Kawhi back in the game by “feeding the big dog” for that slam. That five-minute span is the essence of what Kyle Lowry brings to the Raptors!
Kyle Lowry has been the perfect leader of this Raptors’ team. I was going to mention his double dive on one possession, but Matt Shantz stole that gem. So, instead: Have you ever seen Groundhog Day? You know the part where Bill Murray knows all the answers to Jeopardy because he lived that day so many times in a row? That is how Lowry plays basketball. He plays like he knows all the answers. Whenever Toronto was cold against Milwaukee, there was Lowry pulling up for 3. He never hunts his own shot, and somehow he’s averaged over 19 points a game during the playoffs. His defense has been consistently brilliant. I’m giddily anticipating Lowrytitle.
3) The Warriors are a dynasty, but do they have the best player in the series?
There’s a very long conversation here about Steph Curry’s impact on the league, and how his presence obliges easy offense for his teammates. There’s also a conversation about Kevin Durant’s absurd and inevitable offensive greatness. There’s a reason wing players have generally dominated the NBA for the past couple decades. The best of them can control an offense like a guard, and dominate on defense like a big. Kawhi has been doing exactly that for the Raptors, and even though his offensive ceiling is below both Durant and Curry, watching him mitigate all of Giannis’ strengths and lead the Raptors to a win over a historically great team (from a statistical point of view) gives me the reasons I need to crown him as the league’s best player. He is incredibly good. Kawhi Leonard is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will.
If I’m giving a measured response – I think we’re now in an era where there is not one undeniable “Best Player in the World”. Depending on recent events, we’re probably going to rotate between 5 players on a monthly basis for the foreseeable future.
But when you take into account that the Raptors have never had any player even close to this dominant, I think every Raptors fan is justified in proclaiming they have the best basketball player on the planet on their team. Measured takes are for January – the Raptors are in the NBA Finals with Kawhi Leonard and he is not only inevitable, unstoppable, and undeniable – he’s also the best player in the world.
Kawhi is the best all-around player in the series, but Steph is the best offensive player hands down. What Golden State does have is 3 of the best 5 players in this series though.
I do not think so. Kawhi Leonard has shown his calibre in these playoffs defensively, offensively, as a clutch shooter and immoveable wall impossible to goad or get through, as a careful distributor, a leader, as a dream killer and star-player stopper, the list goes on. I think it’s the Raptors inherent versatility, the thing built into this team, that has fuelled seeing so many of these things in Leonard along with the new challenges every round has brought. This next round might be the biggest challenge yet but it’s also just another one for Leonard to rise to.
3) If Durant plays most of the series (he’s out for Game 1 already) the Warriors have the best player. Kawhi is the superior defender, but Durant’s switchability and rim protection are incredible, so the gap isn’t that big on that side. Offensively Durant does everything Kawhi excels at better and more efficiently (iso ball, posting up, play making, although Kawhi was racking up the assists in Games 5 and 6 vs Milwaukee) PLUS Durant’s a far better three point shooter.
All that said, if Durant doesn’t play, I like Kawhi over Curry for the obvious defensive disparity.
It’s at the very least a debate, which is exciting within itself. Kawhi has been monstrous in these playoffs, coming through in all of the big moments and delivering whatever is necessary game after game with signature defensive performances and offensive ones the likes of which he’s never shown to such a degree.
On the other side of things, Curry is no slouch, though he can’t command the defensive end of the floor like Kawhi can, and while Durant may be getting overlooked somewhat due to his calf injury, he also has a tendency to float in and out on defence depending on how locked in he is.
I therefore think it’s safe to deem Kawhi, even if he doesn’t have Curry’s gravity or Durant’s seemingly unlimited offensive arsenal, the most well-rounded of the superstars in this series.
This one is hard, so I’ll hedge a little. It would not surprise me in the least if the Raptors have the best player on the court for 4-5 games, but this feels like a nightly award that will switch hands between each team. Between Kawhi, Steph, and KD (if he returns healthy), we may change our minds on a nightly basis.
This really depends on how you define best. I think Stephen Curry is the best basketball player in the world, because I think that title is more about sustained success and excellence and for the last four years no one has changed the face of the league more than Steph has. He warps the dimensions of the floor on offense because of the ways that you have to guard him, and he’s a shooter on a level entirely different than anyone else in the league. Kevin Durant, in his own right, is excellent and some people consider him the best player in the league, and there is a strong case for that as well. However, in a single series, Kawhi Leonard is definitely capable of being better than either of them, or anyone else in the league. When he’s locked in defensively and rolling offensively, there is no one who impacts the game quite like he does, and the way he does it at the defensive end while still maintaining his offense, it’s hard to argue against him as the best player. If he can keep being that guy, he will be the best player on the floor in the series, and it’ll go a long way towards helping Toronto win their first title.
While I believe Stephen Curry brings by far the most value over the course of an entire regular season and playoffs out of any player in this series, Kawhi Leonard should be the best player in these finals. Intensive schemes have limited Curry’s scoring in prior finals and Kevin Durant likely won’t be near 100 percent, leaving Leonard as the favorite to elevate his game above the rest.
Is there room to answer this question with a 2000-word column? Okay, how about 12: Kawhi is rock, Durant is paper, Steph is scissors, have at it. Let’s face it, though, while Kawhi’s the most complete player in the series, the other two in the race don’t have to be. Even if KD doesn’t suit up, and Boogie can’t shake the rust off, Golden State’s ability to alter their attack and remain almost as deadly simply puts the numbers game in their favour. Individually and collectively.
If Durant is fully healthy, then probably, but it’s not by a lot (and he’s probably not healthy). Durant and Leonard might be one-two in the league right now, but when you are as good as they are, when you are in that stratosphere, the impressions of who is best can vary by the game. Suffice it to say that both teams are happy that they have the guy that they have.
Nope, I think the Raptors have the best player in the series. But the Warriors have the second, third and (probably) fourth best players in Steph, Klay and Draymond. The Raptors are probably more deep if you look at a 7/8 man rotation, especially if OG can make a successful return and integrate himself back into the lineup, but the Warriors top-end talent and championship experience will make it extremely tough for the Raptors.
No. Kawhi Leonard has been the best player in the NBA throughout these playoffs. He is capable of being the best player on both sides of the floor. Kevin Durant is an amazing scorer but we just don’t know how much we will see of him in the series or what version of him we’ll see. Steph Curry is an amazing shooter but just doesn’t contribute as much as Kawhi does defensively, so it’s hard to argue he can impact a game as much.
It’s so hard to look at players in a vacuum when the Warriors can put out a lineup with five All-NBA players. Current injuries aside, I’d have to give the nod to Kevin Durant for the absolute clinics he has put on over the last two playoff runs. Leonard’s individual masterpiece this season is a better singular playoff performance than any Warrior has had over their five year stretch, but boy five years is a looooong stretch. That alone proves how good their individuals are.
No. Even if Durant comes back at some point, the durability and consistent dominance Kawhi Leonard has played with this postseason, places him first by a wide margin. Kawhi is the 3rd player in NBA history behind Jordan and Olajuwon to have at least 11 30-point playoff games entering the Finals. He’s one of 6 guys to ever average 31 PPG in a single postseason, and has the highest win share total of any player in the 2019 playoffs. Add in his defensive excellence, and it’s not even close. The Warriors have some special players, but Kawhi Leonard might be having the best two-way playoff performance in the history of basketball.
With all due respect to Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant if he returns — NO!
I don’t think any player in the world could do what Kawhi Leonard just did in the Milwaukee series. His ability to defend GIannis Antetokounmpo was the single biggest factor in Toronto winning, and Leonard led the Raptors on offense with impossible shot-making. If he is the best player in the world, he’ll never have a better stage on which to prove it.
4) The Warriors’ offense is one of the best in league history, but the Raptors’ defense has performed at similarly hyperbolic levels this postseason. Who wins between the unstoppable force and the immovable object?
By far the most intriguing question of this whole series. Us Raptors writers have been stuck writing about the East for so long that the Warriors offense getting thrust into the conversation is great fun. Watching this Raptors defense grow and change has been my favourite sub-plot of the NBA playoffs. There’s no stopping the Warriors, but the Raptors will pose the greatest challenge *by far*.
Especially without Durant (and possibly Iguodala), the Warriors are ironically short on shooting. They have the two best shooters in basketball history, but they frequently are surrounded by non-shooters.
The Raptors defining trait as a defense is their ability to leverage their opponent’s lack of spacing as an advantage. They are hyper aggressive – not in the traditional way either. They don’t always trap ball screens (though they have shown the ability to), but they dig down from off-ball players to disrupt drives, they clog the lane, and they swarm the ball.
If there was an archetype for the type of offense the Raptors could successfully defend, it would be one in which the offense has very few dynamic ball handlers, and is surrounded by non shooters. I thought this aggressive style of defense would be the Raptors eventual downfall in the playoffs, as teams with poor spacing, passing, and shooting are eliminated in early rounds, leaving the elite offenses at the end of a playoff run.
But the Raptors took down their biggest structural challenge against the 5-out Bucks. The Warriors are infinitely more talented when they are at their best, but Toronto’s defense is in no way inherently limited or bound for failure.
Defense is about effort and tenacity, and can get worn out with constant hellfire from 30+ft out. What great defense gets you is the ability to get a stop at critical times, which much like said 30+ft hell fire, can give you a chance to win you a game/series. As much as the Raptors will have a hard time defending the Warriors, the Warriors will struggle to manage Kawhi given they don’t have a lot of switchy wings to keep throwing at Kawhi like the Sixers and Bucks did.
The Raptors will slow the Warriors down if they control the defensive glass and stop falling for every single pump/head-fake. Both were problems against Milwaukee where you can be let off, not so much with the Warriors. I feel in any great offense/great defense matchup the defense will always have an edge because nerves affect offense more than defense. Unfortunately, the Warriors have loads of experience where that potential advantage is nullified.
The Raptors defense also has to do more than just get stops, they have to generate points. I’m not talking picking off point-to-wing passes and running them back for one-handed jams, I’m referring to getting stops and making the Warriors pay for hitting the offense boards. Siakam can also put a lot of pressure with his live dribble after collecting rebounds, the same is true with Leonard. Gaso’s quick outlets can beat GSW at their own game. Putting pressure on GSW doesn’t always mean playing lock-down defense but about what you do when you have just gotten the ball.
Well, both are bound to get moved. The balance is going to come in unbalancing the other team, for either team, so really it comes down to who manages to do that first. That could be game by game, with each correcting in time for the next, or a flat out topple. The former is the most likely scenario with how much both of these teams excel at what they’re good at.
If Durant is healthy I really don’t like how the Raptors match up. Who’s Kawhi going to guard? It seems he’s not best suited to chase around guys like Curry and Thompson, and you’re not taking enough advantage of his abilities by putting him on limited scorers like Iguodala or Green (who guards Green?). So that leaves Durant – is Kawhi going to guard him the entire series while carrying the offensive load? I guess he’ll have to. Also Lowry seems more suited to guard physical ones and twos (like Butler, Brogdon, even Middleton at times); Curry and Thompson are speed and finesse.
There are two old adages at play here: a) Defence wins championships and b) a great offence can overcome a great defence.
The reason these polar opposite clichés exist in the first place is because different teams with different identities making their title runs at different times contain different trademark qualities. The Raptors, yes, have displayed lockdown defence during the playoffs thus far, but when they’re rolling they have an offence that can match anyone’s, with shooters on the wings, a deadly transition attack, high IQ distributors, and a lethal focal point who can dominate in the half-court.
Similarly, the Warriors, when they are roused (a rarity these days, having let a couple series drag on longer than they really should have), are a gritty defensive club, with noted defensive stalwarts Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green leading the way.
Ultimately, I’m not sure it comes down to simply the Raptors’ defence or the Warriors’ offence. Championship-level teams have both, and it’s just about how well they’re able to exploit advantages with the matchups they are given.
Without KD I’ll put my money on the Raptors defence. For all the problems the Warriors present they will be starting the Finals with only 2.5 to 3 shooters in their starting rotation. Granted, this includes two of the greatest shooters in league history, but it still allows the Raptors options for players to cheat off of. Each series presents a different defensive challenge, and I’ll be curious to see how the Raptors can continue to run shooters off the line while now needing to be aware of high level cutters/passers away from the ball.
I’d argue that the viewers win, first and foremost. This is going to be incredible viewing. The Raptors defense has done a great job taking away what offenses want to do while maintaining the ability to recover onto second and third options, and the Warriors are going to be a staunch test of that. You can’t really stop Steph and Klay from hitting shots, and you probably shouldn’t completely try, because if you focus too much on that the Warriors will absolutely hurt you with other players, and you have to be cognizant of that at all times, but you can make their lives difficult and try to take away the easy shots. Make them work the shot clock and settle for the shots they’d rather not have to take. At the end of the day though, the answer to this question likely lies in who wins the transition battle, and who wins the turnover battle. The Warriors are the scariest team in the league in transition where failing to pick up one of their shooters can create a large run in extremely short order, and that has to be a Raptors priority, getting back to slow them down. On the other hand, the Raptors defense is great at playing passing lanes and creating opponent turnovers, and Golden State can be sloppy at times and goaded into turning the ball over and allowing the other team to get out and run.
I have to go with experience here. The Warriors’ arguably have the greatest assembly of offensive talent in league history, while the Raptors’ defence has only reached a supremely elite level in these playoffs. Golden State’s offence overwhelming Toronto’s defence seems far more likely to me than the latter.
It may be stressful to wait for, and to rely on, but the Raps’ new-found ability to up the ante defensively has been their saving grace. Without that “switch”, even with Kawhi doing Kawhi things, they probably wouldn’t have even gotten past Philly. There’s just one problem: they’re now facing a team that’s mastered the offensive version. At least going in, it’s impossible not to give the “unstoppable force” more respect. On the other hand, there’s a big enough sample size to think the “immovable object” has a fighting chance. Nick Nurse’s defensive adjustments have earned that much.
The Raptors, in these playoffs, have not met an offence as good as the Warriors. Giannis and his supporting staff is much closer to the Houston Rockets model than the Warriors, who boast two MVPs, two perennial All-Stars (three if Cousins is able to play) and a former Finals MVP. With the Bucks, if the Raptors put in the effort on defence then they could be pretty much assured that they would own that possession. Against the Warriors, you could play perfect schematic defence and still the Warriors will score. They’re that good. I’d have to give the edge to the Warriors in that scenario.
Easy answer I know, but I think it’ll be a game-to-game thing, and will follow the cadence of some adjustments being made on both ends. I fully expect the Warriors to have at least a game or two where they shoot lights out and the Raptors can’t do anything about it, but I also expect a game or two where the Raptors are able to clamp down and cause some problems for the Warriors offense (as they’ve shown the ability to do in the past) – either schematically by trapping and double-teaming, or just by putting certain guys on certain scorers. The Raptors have the luxury of throwing either Kawhi or Danny at either Steph or Klay when they get going, and have Marc Gasol and Serge as capable defensive bigs that can adjust to either a Cousins or Bogut Warriors front court. Throw in Pascal on Draymond and you have basically all bases covered – until of course, they inevitably get punched in the mouth.
I guess we’ll find out, but the Raptors are well equipped to win this series on both sides of the floor.
Defensively, they can put Kawhi on Thompson and Green on Curry, enabling them to switch the pick-and-roll and contain the best shooting backcourt of all time. They can also go small for the first time in the playoffs, playing Siakam at the five with switchable wings around him. Offensively, if they continue getting paint touches and moving the ball the way they did in the final four games against the Bucks, they will continue to get open threes and good looks.
Considering the Warriors will be without KD for at least the start of this series, and when he does come back they will need time to adjust to the drastically different style he brings, they are vulnerable. They have a weak bench. They play lineups with just one or two shooters. They got away with it against a Portland team that was missing it’s starting center, but the Raptors are better than that. The Raptors just beat the best team in the league. That wasn’t luck. If the Raptors continue playing the way they did in the final four games against the Bucks, they can take down the dynasty.
There are no winners and losers here, just good moments and bad moments. (That is such a cop-out answer, I know.) Both sides have proven to be too talented, adaptable, and resilient to crumble entirely. The Raptors’ half-court defence versus the Warriors dizzying attack is my most anticipated matchup and I think it is relatively even, however, I think the Warriors possess a significant advantage with their own half-court defence that outweighs any significant boosts Toronto’s defence provides.
The Raptors defense has been amazing. It’s the reason I’m even getting to type this right now. But to say that this performance will easily carry over to playing one of basketball’s greatest ever teams, would be tempting fate.
I think given steady excellence the Warriors have produced over the past 4 NBA Finals, you’ve got to give them the nod when deciphering where the advantage lies. But this is why we play the games. If any team is capable of putting out the fire that is the Warriors offense, it’s Toronto. But I have to respect the champs until they’re proven otherwise.
Transition and perimeter defense are important factors. However, the key is rebounding because it fuels the ability for the Raptors to get out in transition. The Warriors have snipers of a different ilk than the Bucks. Still, I can’t help but feel each previous Raptors series has been the perfect precursor for their next opponent.
Toronto held the Magic to 95.8 offensively (post break Magic off rating: 112.1). Likewise, the 76ers were feasting with 115.7 ppg – Raptors held them to 98.85 ppg. The Bucks entered the ECF ranked second offensively (113.4). The Raptors held them to 106.6 ppg which includes the double-overtime victory (in the four Raptors wins the Bucks ppg plummets to 101.75 again including the DOT game).
Every round Nick Nurse has made an important defensive tweak. Depending on whether Kevin Durant returns in this series I wonder if it will be putting Kawhi on Draymond Green at times to limit his ability to play make or push the ball in transition.
With news OG Anunoby could be available mid-series and with Pascal Siakam not having to deal with giants on offense I think that also makes the Raptors much more versatile on both sides of the hardwood. Ultimately, the Dubs have experience on their side while the Raptors have desire on theirs and that may well be what decides who wins that gold ball.
Toronto’s defense doesn’t break. They have proved time and again that the results on the floor won’t impact their effort and discipline. Even when Eric Bledsoe rained jumpers on their heads to start game five, Toronto trusted the process, and eventually probability turned back to Toronto’s favour. The Raptors’ defense is best defined by its versatility, and no matter what offensive weakness exists, Toronto will find and exploit it. Steph Curry is a threat unlike any they’ve faced, but Toronto is fully capable of limited Golden State’s bursts. Assuming a few momentary lapses, I would expect the Raptors’ defense to be up to the task for ~80 percent of the series.
5) Call it.
I have long been of the opinion that having a lot of different styles is very helpful in the postseason. The Raptors of years past had one style that they ran to perfection in the East, and they always hit a wall in the playoffs. This years Raptors have been changeable and fluid, taking several different routes to success. I revere the Raptors intelligence, and after Milwaukee, their resolve. I can’t turn my back on what they showed. These are the Pistons of ’04 reborn and they’ve come to end an era. Raptors in 7.
So much is dependent on the health of Durant and Iguodala. My mind says Warriors in 6, but I’ll go Raptors in 6.
I believe, and have money, in the Raptors in 5…don’t @ me…
Head says Warriors in 6. Heart says Raptors in 5 or maybe 7. I choose to look like an idiot.
Raptors in 6. If not now for predictions like this, honestly when?
Warriors in 6.
Raptors in seven.
Against the Bucks I went with my heart over my brain and I’ll do the same here. Raptors in 7. We’re taking it on homecourt and the city will erupt. Let’s get it.
Toronto is playing with house money here, going up against an All-Time great dynastic team in the Warriors, even if they haven’t quite been on that level most of this season. The Raptors have their work cut out for them. Toronto has proven again and again a mental fortitude that can only be described as special, however, and they’ve risen to meet the moment each and every time this postseason, so I’m going to allow myself to believe in that and be a little bit of a homer, and say that their toughness and the home court advantage will deliver the first Raptors Championship banner. My call is Raptors in six.
Experience wins out. Warriors in 7.
If picking the Raps in seven games is realistic enough to bet on (which it is), the very least I can do is try to speak it into existence. Besides, home-court advantage can add a little more truth to what most would call false hope. On the flip side, gun to my head style: I’d be hedging with the Warriors in six.
Warriors in five. If the Raptors are going to have a chance, though, we’ll know early.
Raptors in 7. It’s time to get Lowry that gold ball.
Raps in 6
Okay, so the Warriors may be without Durant, Iguodala, and Cousins for the first game or two IN TORONTO!! That changes things a little bit, however the Raptors have started somewhat slowly in each series which is concerning. If Toronto can snag the first two home games then I’ll take them in 7, but if Golden State head home with a split they will win in 7.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Raptors have very little pressure on them coming into a high stakes series. Everyone expects Golden State to dominate, Kawhi to leave and Toronto to turn back into the proverbial sports pumpkin it has always been labeled as. Yet, the Warriors are missing 3 of their best 6 players, are playing their first Finals without homecourt advantage, and are the most vulnerable they have ever looked in this dynasty’s history.
This goes against every karmic law I believe in, but I think this might be the year where David conquers Goliath. I can’t believe I’m typing this. To hell with it.
Raps in 7.
This Warriors team is already a dynasty, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (should he return) love playing in Toronto which isn’t something I enjoy typing. But — BUT, I believe in these Raptors. The combination of rest days, their ability to defend and be versatile in their lineups all factor.
I’m a superstitious sort of gal so at season start when I pinned the Kyle Lowry “All that matters is that gold ball” post to my Twitter many asked why I never changed it. It’s because I believe he’ll be hoisting it somewhere around June 16th. Although I could also see it happening on the 13th (Game 6) I’d prefer Toronto win it at home so all the fans get to experience that moment live in the 6ix!
Like so many before me, I’m picking Raps in seven. It’s fate. I have a much longer explanation here.