Every step forward is new and transformative for the Raptors. There’s nothing repetitive or cyclical about what they’re doing, and there won’t be until all 30 NBA teams are engaged in action again next October. Rather than walking gingerly on this new and hallowed ground, the Raptors stomped into this new arena, with fervor, and declared proudly: “We are here.” Building toward a reality that operated as fantasy for so many for so long, the Raptors look to carry that same confidence into game 2 of the NBA Finals.
There’s no doubt the city of Toronto (and the team) is riding high after the game 1 victory against the Warriors. The win was payoff for a great many things:
- Pascal Siakam’s Star Rising – A vote of confidence in the G-League investment by the Raptors and Masai Ujiri’s grassroots work in Africa.
- The “believe in ourselves” sentiment that was echoed by Ujiri, after comments and questions about why Kawhi Leonard might want to stay in Toronto.
- Kyle Lowry’s place in the NBA. Doubted by so many, nearly traded many times (including this year!). The last member of a nucleus that failed so many times before, and now leading a team into the Finals that evokes so much more of his cerebral, gritty style than Raptors teams of the past.
- The fans of Toronto and Canada get to show out proudly, with the world watching, as they put on a display of enthusiasm that hasn’t really been seen in the NBA before, and one that would be difficult to emulate.
The Warriors failed in a few different ways in game 1, and as a team that has championship pedigree, they should have a strong response in game 2. We saw the Warriors run more pick n’ roll as a result of how the Rockets played them. Against the drop defense of Enes Kanter and the Blazers, the Warriors attacked again and again. We’ll likely see the Warriors put more pressure on Marc Gasol in the middle of the floor, and even though his response in game 1 was superb, expect the Warriors to come back with different secondary options to those actions, and a firm idea on how they want to attack in those play-types.
The Raptors need to keep playing with the same urgency on defense that they have for the better part of the playoffs; to keep building on a defensive identity that is leading them down a road where they could be considered historically great. Kill the Warriors pace and supercharge your own. Lowry and Pascal Siakam should look to break the game open with the ball, and force the Warriors into a snail’s pace without it.
Without Kevin Durant in the series as of yet, these Raptors were wrongly identified as underdogs. It’s been apparent in the Raptors fanbase for some time that if the Raptors want to win, they need to play near, or at their highest level; something they’ve been able to do. The Warriors on the other hand haven’t had that pressure in years past, and when they didn’t bring their ‘A’ game for the opening bout of the Finals, they got beat. Wire-to-wire, end-to-end, the Raptors bested them. How the Warriors respond, and how the Raptors adapt to that version of them, will be the story of game 2, naturally. Having seen this version of the Raptors, I have no problem trusting them to respond to anything.
If you’re looking for a more granular look at how game 1 carried out you can find my breakdown of Pascal Siakam’s half-court offense here, and Adam McQueen’s breakdown of Marc Gasol’s heady brilliance here.
Tipoff: 8:10 EST | TV: TSN/ABC
OG Anunoby (appendicitis) is probable for Game 2.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher, Eric Moreland
Andre Iguodala (left calf tightness) will play, Kevin Durant (strained calf) is doubtful for game 2.
PG: Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Draymond Green, Jonas Jerebko
C: Kevon Looney, DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, Andrew Bogut
Have a blessed day.