Raptors

Raptors Break Down in Pivotal Game 2

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Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors proved to hold extreme weight. Not only did it shift momentum at halftime, but it shifted the series as a whole. With home court advantage lost, the Raptors must regroup and prepare for the road, while the Warriors gained even more confidence with the return of Kevin Durant coming in the near future.

Consistency was not a key

Not unlike many NBA Finals contests, this game had a wavering feel throughout. A dominant 2nd quarter stretch from Toronto was matched, and then some after an 18-0 run to start the 3rd by Golden State. A scorching Raptors offence in the first game couldn’t buy an open shot for the majority of Game 2. Even the Warriors went 5:33 seconds without a field goal before Andre Iguodala’s dagger with seven seconds to go.

The lack of consistency throughout even trickled down to individual players. Fred VanVleet made five of his seven shots in the first half, while Danny Green made his only two 3’s in the 4th quarter. Iguodala and Quinn Cook combined to make five 3’s in the second half, and neither made a shot in the first. It seemed like no one was safe from the unpredictability of the game. Even the refs seemed to change their minds on whether to call cheap fouls or not. Hard double teams on both sides were rarely called, yet Kyle Lowry’s 6th foul had less contact than my hand slapping a pillow after Iguodala’s late game heroics.

On the other hand, the Finals are a place to expect the unexpected. Nobody knows this statement better than the Golden State Warriors. After 4 straight Finals appearances, a game where logic and tranquility flies out the window has to favor the defending Champions. The Raptors were able to win Game 1 after playing 48 minutes of solid basketball. They avoided Warriors runs and took care of the basketball. In a game where the Raptors had lapses, Golden State had too much talent and experience.

Biggest takeaways heading to Oracle

Golden State may be feeling as good as a team can be in a 1-1 playoff series. They snatched home court advantage away from the Raptors. They did so while coming back from a double digit first point deficit. Oh, and they have a 2-time Finals MVP on the precipice of returning. While his return isn’t confirmed, and Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney also suffered injuries throughout Game 2, the fact that the Warriors just won a road game with an incomplete roster is a huge positive for them.  Holding the Raptors to 45 second half points and limiting them to 37% shooting overall is another one.

A Raptors fan hearing the positives from the Golden State side has reason to be concerned. From a pessimistic point of view, giving up home court in a winnable game with the opposition hurt is a no-no. Well, from any point of view that reality is more back-breaking than Iguodala’s game sealing jump shot. Regardless of the facts, the Raptors are still tied with the defending NBA champions, and were a few bounces away from a 2-0 series lead. This loss stung, but the Raptors can’t let it dictate Game 3.

Kawhi Leonard improved his game tremendously after having a few days to digest the Warriors’ defensive game plan. However, the Raptors were unable to find consistent three point shooting around him. Besides their sleep walk into the 3rd quarter, most of the Raptors shots were high quality. Their offensive execution was decent from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but not from a shotmaking one. That, coupled with Golden State’s extra eye on Game 1 star Pascal Siakam, and it led to a rough non-Kawhi night offensively. The Raptors have to hope that their role players make shots on the road in Game 3 and 4, which is easier said than done in the playoffs.

A rotation adjustment for each side

The Golden State Warriors are the kings of adjustments. After playing 13 players in Game 2, they finally found their answers at the Center spot. DeMarcus Cousins was massive for the Warriors on both sides of the ball. His 11 rebounds limited 2nd chances for Toronto, and his 6 assists helped spread the ball across the floor. He was a huge reason why the Warriors had an assist on a ridiculous 89.5% of their baskets. Furthermore, pressed into action after Looney’s injury, veteran Andrew Bogut was key in the second half. Much like Marc Gasol for Toronto, Bogut’s knowledge of positioning was a perfect match for Golden State. All 3 of his field goals were right at the hoop, left open while the defence was scrambling after Stephen Curry.

While the Warriors seemed to have figured out their rotation, Game 2 may have raised some questions for Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Bigs Gasol and Serge Ibaka combined to go 5-14 in the game. Combine that with Siakam’s off game and the Raptors frontcourt went 10-32. Compare that to 12-23 for Golden State and it paints a bigger picture. The slower Ibaka and Gasol are having trouble helping on the Splash Brothers and recovering back to the bigs. With Siakam able to play the 5, and forward OG Anunoby returning from injury, small-ball may be in the cards. The lack of rebounding is watered down slightly due to Leonard’s ability to crash the glass throughout the Playoffs.

An altered rotation could be a break through for a Raptors team searching for answers after a devastating loss. It could also be an overreaction to one bad 3rd quarter stretch and a lack of shot making. Regardless, the Toronto Raptors are not out of the series by any means. Just as quickly as one team grabs a lead, the other team can take it right back, as evident by Game 2. Each team has thrown a pretty substantial blow in the NBA Finals thus far. Whichever team can make the proper adjustments and pull away over the next few games could be on their way to a championship.

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About Matthew Winick

Matthew Winick is an avid basketball fan both from the NBA side, as well as NCAA hoops. A native of Toronto, Ontario, he is a lifetime Raptors fan and is just now reaping the benefits. He is currently studying Sport Media at Ryerson University in Toronto, and hopes to be talking sports with the best of them in his future. You can reach him on any social media @matthewwinick.

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