1-1 is where the NBA finals series score stands after Sunday night’s game, to the disappointment of Raptors fans. They now head into The Oracle needing to win at least one of the next two games to regain homecourt advantage. There’s a lot that could have gone better in Game 2. It’s frustrating to know, but shows how there is significant room for improvement. To name a few aspects; Kyle Lowry was terrible, the officials missed a bunch of calls, Iguodala had his best shooting game in 3 weeks, the Warriors went on an 18-0 run to begin the second half, and the Raptors defense was uncharacteristically slow on their rotations. Even after playing a shabby 48 minutes of basketball (aside from Kawhi), the Raps had a real chance to win the game in the final few minutes. Against the defending champs, who themselves were playing very well, that’s impressive. Despite the tough loss, there are a few things that the Raptors did very well to keep them in the game.
Second chance points
After losing the battle on the glass in Game 1, and being outscored by double digits in second-chance points by the Dubs, the Raptors definitely had rebounding as a point of emphasis in Game 2. Luckily for the Raptors, their opponents greatest weakness is the same as theirs: defensive rebounding. Kawhi and company were able to win the battle on the offensive boards, 15-6 in Game 2, which led to a 23-0 score differential in second chance points. Something so drastic might not be sustainable, especially with Cousins back in the lineup, and Kevin Durant expected to return soon, but if the North can continue to keep this battle fairly even, they will be able to limit open shots for Curry and Thompson.
First half defense on Curry
The first half defense on Stephen Curry was incredible. The Raptors’ traps and double teams forced him to begin the game 0/6 from the field, while forcing him into a couple turnovers. The elite scorer couldn’t find his first bucket of the game until late in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the third quarter Warriors were just as great as they notoriously are, beginning the second half on an 18-0 run, and holding the Raptors to 2/14 shooting. The Warriors were able to get on the break after forcing the Raptors into bad shots, which allowed other guys to get going, and that opened up the floor for Steph to operate. The solution: don’t rush your offense, take good shots, and get back on D to set up the best halfcourt defense in the NBA.
Kawhi being Kawhi
16 free throw attempts, 16 makes. 14 rebounds, including 5 on his own team’s misses. There’s not much more that Kawhi could have done to help the Raptors win this game. You could point to his 12 missed shots, but blaming the Klaw for this loss would be criminal. The stats are a lie, judging by how hard he had to work to keep his team in it. He had minimal help, and it seemed like he was playing 1 on 5 at times. After his mediocre Game 1 performance, it’s definitely nice to know that Kawhi is still capable of doing Kawhi things, but just like we’ve seen many times before, other guys need to step up. It is fine for the superstar to take over when he feels like he has to, but he cannot be the only guy putting in work for the entire game. This team is at its best when they play unselfishly, energetically, and multiple guys step up.
Lockdown defense late in the 4th
After constantly being burned by backdoor cuts, lob passes, and Quinn Cook silencers for the first half of the fourth quarter, the Raptors activated Harassic Park. In the final 6:19 of the game, the Warriors were held to 5 points, and that number would have been 2 if Iguodala missed the dagger 3. What killed the Raptors was their inability to hit open shots. Everyone from VanVleet to Green to Kawhi had open looks that just wouldn’t drop, and if even a single one had, the series might have been 2-0 right now. The very fact that the Raptors were able to close the gap while having very little offensive juice left is something to marvel at, and the half court defense is something that they will have to carry forward into Game 3.
It stings to lose a game this close, especially when the Warriors were without Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, and had a banged up Andre Iguodala, but it is what it is. The Raptors have been down in each and every series this year, so they’re not a team that gets stressed out after losing a game. Keep in mind that for the advantaged team to close out the series at home, they must lose at least once. Take solace, Raptors fans. Raps in 5.