The Toronto Raptors are rugged and relentless, capable of punishing teams in transition any time they make a mistake.
The Golden State Warriors felt like they were seeing a version of themselves in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and now they have to stop it.
No problem, they figure.
“It’s first to four, not first to one,” Klay Thompson said. “So, still a lot of basketball to be played.”
The Warriors’ 1-0 deficit may be unusual, but they certainly don’t seem uncomfortable. Golden State had won 12 straight Game 1s before falling 118-109 on Thursday, and the two-time defending champions hadn’t been behind in the NBA Finals since Cleveland had a 2-1 lead in 2015.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr has pointed to his team’s poor transition defence in the opener after Toronto used its quickness to score 24 fast-break points and turn the Warriors’ 17 turnovers into 17 points.
“They were getting the ball off the rim and just pushing it. Instead of crashing as hard as we did, we’ll have to make the adjustment in Game 2 and try to send more guys back,” Thompson said Saturday. “But 10 days off as well, we might have had a little cobwebs. It was just a mixture of things. But I know this: I know we’ll be better tomorrow.”
Kerr said the Raptors reminded him of the Warriors, with Pascal Siakam pushing the ball in transition the way Draymond Green does. Siakam was the far more effective player in the opener, with 32 points while Green struggled to a 2-for-9 night.
But the Warriors aren’t worried, relying on the confidence from facing just about every possible situation while making it to five straight NBA Finals.
“They got rings and they can be confident,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “We can’t really necessarily worry about them. We have to continue to worry about us. They’re going to be them and they’re going to do their thing, but for us we have to concentrate on us and focus on what we have to do.”
Things to know going into Game 2:
Kawhi Leonard scored 23 points in the opener but shot just 5 for 14 after averaging 31.2 points in the first three rounds. Coach Nick Nurse doesn’t think the All-Star forward was bothered by a leg injury that appeared to hamper him somewhat in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I don’t think the leg trouble is much of an issue,” Nurse said, “and I’m expecting him to play a lot better tomorrow.”
If the Warriors want to rattle Leonard, it will require actions rather than words. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP always appears to be calm, and he was asked if he responds when players try to trash talk him.
“It really doesn’t happen too much,” Leonard said. “I really can’t say it happens.”
Though Kevin Durant remains out at least one more game with a strained right calf, he travelled to Toronto with the Warriors to work with the training staff. Stephen Curry said his presence around the locker room is helpful until the two-time NBA Finals MVP can get back on the floor.
“Anybody who goes through an injury like that, you kind of feel alienated because your schedule is a little different. Most of the time you’re on kind of (isolation) with our athletic training staff, putting extra hours in. Stuff starts to feel monotonous, especially with the big stage of the finals here and now,” Curry said. “So I think he’s handled that well, understanding his time is coming sooner than later and he’s doing whatever he can on a daily basis to get healthy.”
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
The Warriors started Jordan Bell at centre in Game 1 and Kerr thought he did well, but Golden State has other options. DeMarcus Cousins and Andrew Bogut are also in the centre rotation along with Kevon Looney.
“Every game is going to be different,” Kerr said. “Pretty much every game this post-season has been different at the centre position, based on what we have needed. The one constant is Looney, who is going to play his 28, 30 minutes one way or the other. What we’re always trying to do is mix and match, and find matchups and fill in those gaps with the right combinations that can help us win.”
WATCH YOUR MOUTH
The Los Angeles Clippers were fined $50,000 by the NBA on Friday for comments coach Doc Rivers made about Leonard during a TV appearance. Kerr won’t fall into the same predicament, having gotten in trouble before.
“I got fined when I was the GM of Phoenix for making a joke on ‘The Dan Patrick Show.’” Kerr said. “I think he asked me if we were interested in LeBron when LeBron was a free agent back in whatever it was that he went to Miami. I said if he’s willing to take the minimum, we would take him. Dan laughed. And I wrote a $10,000 check the next day. So I learned my lesson. I don’t comment about any other players”.
Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press