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Raptors did what others couldn’t in Game 1 against the Warriors

Vincent Frank
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors’ series-opening 118-109 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night was not a surprise to those who have watched the team play.

Sure Golden State entered the Finals as odds-on favorites to win a third consecutive title. But Game 1 was never indicative of the team having a ton of success.

With an entire nation behind them, the electricity inside Scotiabank Arena and in the surrounding areas was something normally reserve for Oakland. Add in nine days of rest for the Warriors, and Toronto seemed primed to steal Game 1.

Again, the win isn’t a surprise. Rather, it’s how the Raptors came out on top that should be talked about.

Defensive intensity: It wasn’t just Kawhi Leonard.

  • The Clippers, Rockets and Blazers all have at least one player that performs well on defense. Thursday evening saw multiple members of the Raptors slow down Golden State.
  • Danny Green, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka all played great defense against Golden State’s half-court set.
  • In particular, Gasol was tremendous in helping on Stephen Curry out on the perimeter. It led to the Warriors turning the ball over 10 times while making just 15 field goals in the first half.

The scheme: It paid off big time.

  • Trapping in the half-court set against Golden State had proven to be pointless in the past. But with Kevin Durant out, the Raptors figured they could get away with it.
  • The Warriors’ plus-level passing (nearly 30 assists per game) was tested big time in this one.
  • Toronto took advantage of what was some rust from the Warriors’ offense. The ball was not moving around at the crisp rate we’ve seen in the past.

Getting out on transition: Beating the Warriors at their own game.

  • Typically, playing a fast-paced game against the Warriors has not led to success during their five-year run of dominance.
  • That changed Thursday night. Toronto nearly doubled up the Warriors in fast-break points. A lot of that had to do with Golden State’s turnovers. Even then, the Raptors deserve a lot of credit.
  • When you can force the Warriors to play defense in transition, it mitigates the impact Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala have.

These are the three factors that led to Toronto’s Game 1 win over the defending champs. We’re fully expecting the Warriors to change up their game plan between now and Sunday. Even then, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse should be more than up for the task.

The coaches: Nurse simply outcoached Steve Kerr.

  • The impact of Durant’s injury was obvious here. Though, Kerr struggled big time with rotations.
  • At one point in the game, Golden State had Shaun Livingston, Alfonzo McKinnie, Kevon Looney, Draymond Green and Steph Curry in the game.
  • Toronto wasn’t fooled. The ball was going to Curry. Nurse told his defenders to sell out against Curry and over play the ball. Toronto outscored the Warriors by six in this three-minute span.

Kerr is going to have to adjust. Rarely is he ever outcoached. But it’s something we saw throughout the game Thursday night.

Toronto has to be feeling good about its series-opening win while knowing full well that the Warriors will come out strong in Game 2.

If nothing changes as it relates to what we mentioned here, a 2-0 series lead heading to Oakland isn’t out of the question. From there, Toronto would be in the driver’s seat big time.