The Toronto Raptors are a different kind of beast.
And if the Golden State Warriors want to three-peat, they’re going to have to do something that they’ve never done before. Because not only is this the first time that the Warriors have started the NBA Finals on the road, it’s also the first time they’ve lost Game 1, as they fell to the Raptors 118-109 on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.
“Different energy, different city, different views, everything should prepare us to lock in, understanding that we have a prime opportunity to start off this finals series on the road and get a win and set the tone for how it’s going to be,” said Steph Curry prior to Game 1 when discussing the task that lay ahead of his team.
“I like the challenge and the unfamiliarity of this kind of schedule and flow. We’ve been there before, and we’ve experienced a lot, and this is, I think, something we’re capable of doing.”
Well, if the Warriors are going to do it they’re going to have to slow down the Raptors “Big 3.”
The trio of Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Danny Green combined for 63 points in Game 1. When you add in the fact that the Raptors bench contributed 25 points of their own, it means that Toronto’s two All-Stars only accounted for 30 of the Raptors 118 points.
“He played with really good composure and he got to his spots, got on balance, and was patient,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse about Siakam, who scored a team-high 32 points in his NBA Finals debut.
Siakam was the best player on the floor all night, while the rest of the Raptors starting unit, minus Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, were able to collect 17 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 5 blocks.
If the Warriors were looking to limit Leonard and Lowry’s scoring, then their game plan worked. But what didn’t was their inability to lockdown Toronto’s role players.
“It’s gonna be really good for us to have a game on tape where we can really pick it apart and see what we can do better,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
One adjustment that the Warriors might look at is playing DeMarcus Cousins more. After being sidelined with a torn left quad muscle, Cousins came off the bench to play 8 minutes, scoring 3 points to go along with a pair of steals and assists. And with Gasol playing 29 minutes, it feels like that could be the best scenario for Cousins playing more minutes in Game 2.
“There’s a huge adjustment to play after a six/seven-week absence,” Kerr said about Cousins. “Especially at this level at the NBA Finals against a team that’s pretty fast already. I thought he did really well and we’ll look at the tape and see what we’ll decide to do with his role going forward.”
The Raptors swept the Warriors during their two regular-season matchups. Which means that they have now won three straight against the defending champs.
And for all the folks that have been screaming that the Warriors need Kevin Durant back to win a championship, their case just got a little stronger.
Thursday’s night loss for Golden State means that they’ve lost their last four games in the NBA Finals when Durant isn’t on the floor. Golden State dropped Games 5, 6, and 7 to the Cavaliers in 2016 before Durant showed up, and are now in an 0-1 hole.
And with Durant expected to miss Game 2, Sunday feels like a must-win for the Warriors.