With Game 2 of the NBA finals just hours away, in which the Toronto Raptors will participate (no, you’re not dreaming), Raptors fans should be prepared for the Warriors to come out of the gates sprinting. For any team starting a series on the road, the goal is always to steal at least one game, and gain home court advantage. After dropping Game 1 on Thursday, the defending champs led by the only ever unanimous MVP will be firing on all cylinders. Luckily for the Raptors, their own MVP caliber player has tons of room to improve after a somewhat underwhelming Game 1 performance, and they will once again be able to run 9 or 10 players deep with the versatile defensive minded sophomore, OG Anunoby back in the lineup. Aside from Drake and E-40 (not much of a contest), and Obama and Harper, here are some basketball related matchups to watch out for in Game 2:
Fred VanVleet vs Stephen Curry
As aforementioned in my previous article about Game 2 adjustments, Fred VanVleet is the closest thing to a Curry stopper that exists in the NBA. Though he said himself that he does not care to be known as such, it is hard not to praise him for how impeccable his defense has been against the two time MVP. He plays defense on Steph more than 5 times better than anyone else on the team (allowing 0.12 points per possession compared to 0.64 when anyone else guards him), and allowing 5.9 less points per 100 possessions than the next best “Curry defender” in the entire league – the all-defensive first teamer: Eric Bledsoe.
Pascal Siakam vs Draymond Green
For anyone who didn’t already know, Pascal Siakam has arrived. He joined elite company as the 5th highest scoring player in their NBA Finals debut in the past 30 years with 32 points, behind the likes of Allen Iverson (48), Kevin Durant (36), Michael Jordan (36), and Tim Duncan (33). What’s even more impressive is that he did it on 14/17 shooting, while grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing 5 assists. He was huge on the defensive end of the floor too, coming up with a huge block on Draymond Green late in the fourth quarter to seal the win. After the game, Draymond took responsibility for allowing the MIP candidate to go off, and vowed to do a better job defending him in Game 2. Now it’s time to find out if the former defensive player of the year can walk it like he talk it.
Marc Gasol vs Demarcus Cousins
After joining the Golden State Warriors last July, Demarcus Cousins walked through hell and back, taking backlash from media and fans that hasn’t been seen since Kevin Durant did something similar back in 2016. Supposedly his reasons for doing so were to receive a bigger contract in 2019 upon proving to teams he can still play at a high level after his achilles injury which occurred just months prior to his free agency, and to experience an NBA finals. Unfortunately for him, just a couple months after making a full recovery from his achilles, he was sidelined again after inuring his quad in Round 1 against the Clippers. Miraculously, he was able to come back just over a month later, when doctors around the league said it would have been impossible. He played limited minutes in Game 1, but should expect to see more court time tonight. The Raptors shouldn’t have much to worry about though, despite Cousins having 4 all-star selections on his résumé. Marc Gasol notoriously shut down Nikola Vucevic in Round 1, and Joel Embiid in Round 2, allowing neither big man to get anything easy on the offensive end of the floor. If Big Spain can have the same effect on Cousins; not only shutting him down, but making him play inefficient basketball to the Raptors advantage, we could see the north take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Of course, basketball is a team sport, and both teams do a lot of switching – as they should. None of these matchups will be stagnant throughout the entire game, although how Freddy and Marc guard Steph and Boogie respectively, and how Draymond guards Siakam will have a great effect on the outcome of the game. If it’s at all a mirror reflection of Thursday night, the Raptors should be fine.