After the Toronto Raptors took Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors, much to the dismay of NBA fans across the globe, it seems as though they might have a real chance. The Raptors opened the series with +230 odds, and now sit at +130. Though The Bay is still favoured to threepeat, Vegas is giving Canada some respect.
Still, winning one game on your home court doesn’t mean too much, despite the fact that when home teams in the finals win Game 1, they are 43-12 all time winning the series. Both of these teams know adversity all too well, as Steve Kerr said Friday afternoon in his presser. The Warriors have been up 3-1 and lost, down 3-1 and won, and just a couple weeks ago, the Raptors went down 0-2 in the conference finals and came roaring back against the Bucks to win in 6.
With the series having barely begun, all possibilities are still on the table. There’s still an All-NBA players the Warriors are waiting to have back in the lineup until they are at full strength, and the Raptors have yet to see notorious Warriors killer, Kawhi Leonard, really go to work. If the Raptors want to win the series, here are some things they’ll have to keep on doing:
- Stick Freddy on Steph
Stephen Curry dropped 34 points in the Game 1 loss for his club. As a Raptors fan, you can accept this. Let superstars work for their points, and force the role players to beat you. What’s interesting though, is that in the 33 possessions Curry was guarded by VanVleet, he was held to four points on 1/6 shooting. Against the rest of the team, he scored 30 points on 7/12 shooting in 47 possessions. To make that clearer, Steph averaged 0.12 points per possession when guarded by Fred, and 0.64 when any other defender was on him. I’m not one to believe that the craftiest player in the league and maybe the best shooter of all time can have such a kryptonite, but if there were one, it’d be Fred VanVleet.
- Keep forcing other guys to shoot
The Raptors clearly had a gameplan, and no matter how clearly and quickly Steve Kerr recognized it, there was just nothing he could do to get around it. Throughout the whole game, the Raps were running the splash brothers off the line, and throwing everything including the kitchen sink at them as soon as they got into the paint. This resulted in wide open shots for guys like Iguodala, Green, Cook, McKinnie, and Jerebko, however the rest of the team outside of Steph and Klay shot 5/18 from beyond the arc. As long as the Dubs continue to struggle from deep, Nurse will have no trouble sticking with his defensive schemes. When Kevin Durant comes back though, something will have to change.
- Push the ball in transition
This is what basketball gurus around the world have been accrediting for the Raptors Game 1 win – their transition points. This is something that Steve Kerr has talked about multiple times already in the past 48 hours, and he realizes that his team can’t win a game in the finals giving up 24 transition points on 17 turnovers. Unfortunately for him, this won’t be such an easy correction. The Warriors rank second last among all playoff teams in turnover ratio, at 14.9%. With multiple guys on the floor for the Raptors at all times capable of pushing the ball (essentially everyone except for Ibaka and Gasol), this could be the storyline that’s talked about until the end of June.
With one day remaining until Game 2, the Warriors can’t change their identity, or their personnel (thank god). These are three issues that they’ll have to find a way around, and that Nurse will have to keep running until the faucet is broken. Until Sunday, we wait.