June 5, 2019, 2:40 am
Coming out of the halftime break, the Warriors ripped off an 18-0 run that ultimately delivered a series-tying Game 2 victory.
It was a classic Warriors stretch with a relatively new flavor. Golden State absolutely blitzed the Raptors but only hit four 3-pointers in the frame. Despite their vaunted shooters, the Warriors ground Toronto down with precision cuts and timing plays, turning one of the league’s top defenses into Swiss cheese.
Game 1 saw the Warriors get a bulk of their points off broken plays, offensive rebounds and transition play. The Raptors continued their sterling run of half-court defense, but the defending champs have a larger offensive toolbox than other elite teams, even at less than full strength. They were more than able to create easy buckets, leveraging Toronto’s discipline against them in Game 2.
The Raptors are understandably preoccupied with Steph Curry and the Warriors were able to turn those tactics and other tendencies into a series of disturbingly good looks for everyone, from the stars on down to the role players. Andrew Bogut got three lobs, for crying out loud.
The first half featured some ugly half-court work for the Warriors as the Raptors remained committed to loading up on Curry, whether that was picking him up full-court or challenging complementary pieces to make plays. In the second half, Golden State made more of a concerted effort to keep Curry off the ball, where he could wreak havoc and force multiple Raptors into quick decisions.
It resulted in 14 uncontested shots for Curry in Game 2. Though he only hit five of those, it was a vast improvement over Game 1 where he shot a better percentage but faced tougher coverage in a 4-of-8 performance.
Beyond freeing himself up for clean looks, Curry’s off-ball movement was critical in opening things up for everyone else. Danny Green is dead-set on staying with Curry here, and it barely takes any effort for the Warriors to get a wide-open layup. Green’s not anticipating a switch, and he’s still between Curry and the 3-point line – not the basket – even as Draymond Green is scoring. Kawhi Leonard wasn’t at his best, either, and this is one of a few plays where he came into the spotlight after his man scored an easy bucket.
Here’s another instance where the Raptors are forced into a choice, albeit in transition. Kyle Lowry’s caught in a bind (some better communication with Pascal Siakam might help here) and ends up settling on trying to play the passing lane to Curry as Green slides in for an easy two. Even if picking Curry surrenders a 2-on-1 with Fred VanVleet the lone man back, the Raptors chose curry.
While Curry was the main attraction, the Raptors didn’t help themselves with some of their other decisions, either. There’s simply no need for Green to defend Bogut this intensely at that spot on the floor. The Raptors can occasionally get too tight on lesser players, and the Warriors have enough playmaking at less-traditional spots to create easy points from odd-man situations.
The ball movement was gorgeous all night long and the Warriors found plenty of answers by sticking to a core principle.
As an aside, Toronto’s off shooting night didn’t help at all. The Warriors were able to get things flowing, and Draymond Green is enough of a weapon that he only needs semi-transition to manufacture points. The following play comes off a miss but there are five Raptors back. And again, they don’t even think about switching on Curry off the ball.
That the Dubs put up their big run in a quarter where Toronto shot 7-for-22 isn’t surprising in the least. What followed, however, certainly was.
The Raptors have flirted with a number of defensive strategies all season as part of the team’s quest for flexibility. Their personnel, which received a major upgrade at the deadline in Marc Gasol, is both smart enough and physically skilled enough to bust out almost any coverage that Nick Nurse may decide to call out.
The team’s dalliances with a 2-3 zone in the season have been mostly rendered moot in the playoffs given the sheer number of shooters they’ve come across, but the Raptors went deep into the bag in Game 2 to bust out the box-and-one.
That the exact scheme is brand new is just as meaningless as it is stunning. The principles and attributes that guide Toronto’s zone defense should carry over given the personnel, even if there’s major inherent risk in whipping out something new in the highest-leverage game of the year. The Raptors have been built with this sort of quick, drastic change in mind, even though the presence of such a shift isn’t a good thing in the bigger picture. They were not afraid to go there, nor should they be, but who does that? In the Finals, no less.
To make a long story short, the box-and-one has four players zoning up around the paint – hence the box – and another patrolling the perimeter. In this case, Fred VanVleet was tasked with tracking Steph Curry all over the court.
It results in other players being presented with clean looks, though they aren’t the ones that the Warriors are hoping to take. Great teams are confident enough to believe that they can crack any code, and cerebral players will not settle for decent looks early in the clock when there are great shots to be found later. When’s the last time Andre Iguodala took a pull-up three?
On this later possession, after over three minutes of scoreless play, DeMarcus Cousins gives up on the pursuit and takes a triple from the elbow. The video cuts off the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, but there’s not a lot going on around him and it’s not like he needed to take a 3-pointer given the amount of time left at his disposal. It looks like a shot borne of frustration.
The Warriors went dry for 5:32 and got some very ugly shots up in the process. That the Raptors also went cold from the field, much like they did early in the third quarter, is an ugly coincidence. It all built up to a close finish and a late-game scenario that demanded serious mental accounting.
Hindsight says that the Raptors should’ve gone to the foul game with the Warriors holding possession and a two-point lead with 26.9 seconds to go. Instead they tried to play it out and force a turnover. Iguodala ended the game with a clutch bucket, but the Raptors nearly pulled it off.
The Raptors went hard after a steal, missing two ideal chances to foul in the process. Their initial plan should’ve been abandoned when Draymond Green got the ball just over the half-court line, which is the cause for Nurse’s gesturing in the clip below. Toronto nearly gets a steal on a trap of Curry (the Last 2 Minute report deeming that the refs missed a travel here is some salt in the wound), and then nearly gets another steal from Kawhi Leonard.
Somehow, Shaun Livingston maintains control of the ball and kicks it to Iguodala, who waits a moment before uncorking a wide-open three that drops. Whether or not he should’ve shot it so quickly (spoiler: probably not) is rendered moot by the fact that it goes in. The Raptors missed their chances to foul Green and Livingston and were just a half-second too slow to generate the turnover they needed.
It was a microcosm of the night as a whole.
The Raptors almost stole one but their near-comeback isn’t something they should necessarily be hanging their hats on.
It’s too dismissive to call the box-and-one a gimmick, but it will be ripped to shreds if more than one trustworthy shooter is on the court. Nurse took his shot (and hit) with Klay Thompson unavailable, correctly deciding to live with long-range shots from the likes of Iguodala, Quinn Cook and Cousins. Assuming Thompson returns for Game 3, and Kevin Durant follows some time down the line, this is the last we’ll see of the unorthodox coverage.
It’s a unique look that’s worthy of a closer inspection, but it is not what will win them more games in this series.
The Raptors’ bag of tricks revealed a new level of depth in Game 2, but in the end, they were failed by their execution. That’s the takeaway – not any new tactic. They’ll need to be sharper if they want to take a game on the road.
1 – Game 2 seemed to have four major chunks: Klay Thompson keeping the Warriors in touch, Golden State getting tons of free throws to close the gap, The Warriors ripping off their game-winning run and Toronto clawing back with their new toy. As you might expect, the Warriors headlining three of those phases ultimately resulted in a win, even if Thompson’s surge didn’t result in a lead. The Raptors have still won six of eight quarters in the series but the fact that a Thompson heater feels like a win regardless of the scoreboard underscores how much cushion a team truly needs to feel any sort of comfort against Golden State.
2 – Draymond Green certainly rose to the occasion in Game 2 and delivered a masterful performance. He ended up with 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, a block and five turnovers in over 40 minutes while going 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line. The turnovers can be excused to an extent because Green had multiple stints as the de facto point guard. He has a preternatural sense of when to push the pace and was able to throw the Raptors’ defense into a funk by taking Steph Curry away from the ball. Green doesn’t get the assist here, but this basket is entirely his doing:
Between that and his ability to pick defenses apart while on the move, it’s no wonder that he drew Kawhi Leonard a little earlier than he did in Game 1. It wasn’t all roses, as Toronto was disciplined enough early on to take away a lot of Green’s options – and making a lot of his transition efforts turn into wasted running – but eventually the Warriors broke through. He was also excellent defensively, dipping and diving into and out of passing lanes while shutting Pascal Siakam down in their individual matchup. Siakam went 1-for-8 from the field for three points in 35 possessions against Green. Leonard went 1-for-5 in 12 possessions.
3 – Sometimes, when both teams are upset with the officiating it means that the refs have called a solid, even game. This was not one of those times. Game 2 was atrocious from start to finish, with each team getting a huge run of free throws at one point. Although the foul and free throw margins weren’t crazy, the officials had far too large of an impact on the game. The Dubs had an absurd .475 free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in the first half and an equally insane .095 in the second. That won’t follow a normal distribution (hi, stats people!), but that disparity strains believability. The issues run deeper than this, but off the cuff you can recall the phantom blocking call that put Kyle Lowry into foul trouble, Curry getting called for a foul on a VanVleet push-off (and then the officials reviewing for a clear-path foul so we could see their mistake over and over and over), an unbelievable non-call on the play where Thompson was injured, Siakam getting whistled for a clean strip of Curry and a brutal missed goaltend by Thompson in a game that featured a two-point margin in the last 30 seconds. There’s no grand conspiracy here – the officiating crew from Game 2 was just dreadful. Surely the NBA can do better than this.
4 – That said, Lowry has to know better than to put his hand in the cookie jar on his sixth and final foul. He looked ready to inject his energy into the final push after foul trouble put him on the bench for long stretches in the second half, but he needed to channel it more productively in the moment. Lowry is typically Toronto’s best player by on-off and impact metrics, and having him spend so much time off the court may have swung the results. That he took himself out of the equation on a dumb decision is largely inexcusable. He’s got to be smarter because the Warriors don’t need additional help. Bad officiating doesn’t negate bad decisions.
5 – DeMarcus Cousins was largely excellent, if winded, in his 27:37 of action. The big man dodged early foul trouble and ended up posting 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a 3-pointer, making the Raptors pay for giving him a little too much space to create for others. Regardless of his Game 2 performance, it’s clear that Toronto has other areas that demand more attention. How Cousins continues to use his opportunities will be a major factor. The same, to a much lesser extent, can be said about Andrew Bogut and Jordan Bell in the wake of Kevon Looney’s season-ending injury. The Warriors might be forced into deploying Green in bench groups unless Cousins gets his conditioning all the way back quickly.
6 – How the Raptors counter Good Cousins will be interesting. They shouldn’t shy away from attacking him with pick-and-roll work, especially against Marc Gasol, and they may even invite him to try and put up points if it means taking the ball away from the Warriors’ backcourt. Serge Ibaka needs to play better, but Gasol followed up a superb Game 1 with a mediocre showing on Sunday. So much of what the Raptors do stems from him simply hitting good shots, and he came up empty. Gasol should be up to the Cousins task defensively, though the aggressive ball-pressure might need some tweaks with Cousins now rolling to the rim instead of Bell. Boogie is also a strong enough passer to create buckets with slivers of extra space and time, as he showed repeatedly in Game 2. Gasol has had poor showings in the postseason but he’s never had two in a row. We’ll see how it goes on Wednesday.
7 – Norman Powell retook his minutes from Patrick McCaw in Game 2 after the two split in Game 1, with McCaw getting all the work in the second half. Foul trouble played a part in Powell’s longer look but he did give the team more punch and potential scoring than he did in the first game. It’s not hard to see why Nick Nurse went with that over the ever-hesitant McCaw given Toronto’s scoring woes in the third quarter. How Powell and McCaw split the remaining minutes will likely depend on game flow, with OG Anunoby now lurking in the background as he tries to get back into shape.
8 – Danny Green’s threes continue to trickle in and he’s doing some great defensive work away from the ball, but he put the ball on the floor a bit too much in Game 2. That’s not to say that he’s incapable of doing so, but rather that everyone should prefer him to stick to catch-and-shoot looks. Easier said than done against the Warriors’ ramped-up defense. One other wrinkle that’s come up since the regular season is Green trying to establish post position against Curry. It drew a foul in Game 1 and he actually got some post buckets during the regular season, and in Game 2 the Warriors started to shade an extra defender his direction to help Curry out. Green’s post moves are not what Toronto should be hunting for, but if the Warriors are set on sending another man to the matchup then it’s something to exploit. Doubly so if it forces Cousins to rotate. It’s not Plan A, but it’s not a total dead end.
9 – Despite the final score, a lot of the fringe scoring categories were in Toronto’s favor: 18-13 on the break, 44-36 in the paint and a whopping 23-0 on second chances. The second-chance number is a major reversal from Game 1, and the Raptors were able to win the offensive rebounding battle 15-6. That’s a bit skewed by how many they grabbed in the fourth, including a possession where Leonard grabbed three himself, and it seems unlikely to continue given their general lack of interest in the offensive glass. Golden State’s ball movement (34 dimes on 38 buckets) was the difference in Game 2.
10 – This was another game that should leave both teams feeling relatively optimistic. The Warriors were able to win without a classic 3-point shooting barrage and seemed to have found a foothold with their half-court offense. The Raptors should not expect Lowry to play so little going forward, nor should they expect to get so little from their role players besides VanVleet – and they nearly came back despite the worst 12 minutes of their playoffs. The Warriors went 38.2 percent from deep while Toronto went 28.9 percent, and yet the game was a coin fip into its final possessions. These teams are so good. Golden State made the first big adjustment of the series in starting Cousins and now it’s Toronto’s turn to cook up something new. Nurse and co. have been good about playing the right notes all postseason, so it’ll be fun to see what they bring to the table in Game 3.
December 8, 2019, 8:02 pmRajon RondoPG, Los Angeles Lakers
Rajon Rondo is out on Sunday when the Lakers face the the Wolves due to a left hamstring strain.
The injury originally knocked him out of Friday's contest, and Rondo is pretty fragile nowadays so it is not a huge surprise for him to miss this one. Minutes should be available for Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook at this point.
December 8, 2019, 7:58 pmTerrance FergusonSG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Terrance Ferguson (right hip) is not expected to play on Monday according to head coach Billy Donovan.
Ferguson has not been able to produce much when he is on the floor this season, beyond a 3-pointer or two on most night. You are better of ignoring him unless you are in a deep league.
Source: Eric Horne on Twitter
December 8, 2019, 7:53 pmDevonte' GrahamPG, Charlotte Hornets
Devonte' Graham struggled from the field (4-of-17 FG) on Sunday, but still managed to deliver 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds, two 3-pointers, two steals and just one turnover.
Even if Graham has a rough night shooting, you can always bank on a healthy dose of 3-pointers and steals, and tonight he threw in some nice steals, turnover and rebound numbers. He continues to be one of the biggest shockers of the year.
December 8, 2019, 7:48 pmMiles BridgesSF, Charlotte Hornets
Miles Bridges had a strong night of shooting on Sunday as the Hornets met the Hawks, going 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line, on his way to 20 points, three 3-pointers, six rebounds and one steal.
Bridges received nearly 38 minutes in this game, which offered up plenty of field goal attempts to rack up those 20 points. In his prior three games Bridges couldn't crack 25 minutes.
December 8, 2019, 7:41 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
Terry Rozier had an ugly showing against the Hawks on Sunday, reaching eight points on 3-of-13 shooting, with five rebounds, four assists, one steal, two 3-pointers and four turnovers.
Rozier's shot did not drop on Sunday and the four turnovers made the bad outshine the good in this stat line. These kinds of showings have thankfully not been the norm for Rozier as a Hornet, although it was the fear coming into the season.
December 8, 2019, 7:03 pmFred VanVleetPG, Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet (right knee contusion) will not return to Sunday's game versus the Sixers.
VanVleet left Sunday;s game during the second quarter and was followed by training staff. The injury is being called a contusion, so it doesn't sound too serious, but the Raptors will let VanVleet have the rest of the night off. Norman Powell would be the biggest beneficiary if VanVleet is forced to miss any time.
Source: Josh Lewenberg on Twitter
December 8, 2019, 6:48 pmDerrick FavorsPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Derrick Favors (personal) is questionable for Monday's game versus the Pistons.
Favors has been away from the team ever since the death of his mother and the team is not rushing him back until he is ready to return. Jaxson Hayes will continue to benefit if Favors needs another night off.
Source: Pelicans PR on Twitter
December 8, 2019, 6:42 pmCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Cory Joseph will start during Sunday's game versus the Mavs.
Joseph was questionable heading into Friday's game and played as well. Joseph is only worth owning if you are in need of assists.
Source: Mike Peasley on Twitter
December 8, 2019, 6:15 pmTyson ChandlerC, Houston Rockets
Tyson Chandler (illness) is being listed as doubtful for Monday's game versus the Kings
Chandler was a late scratch for Saturday's game and it looks like the veteran will need another games rest. Isaiah Hartenstein will see the bulk of the back up center minutes if Chandler were to rest.
Source: NBA Injury Report
December 8, 2019, 5:54 pmJerami GrantSF, Denver Nuggets
Jerami Grant was hot from deep going 5-of-7 from behind the arc to go along with 15 points and two rebounds.
Grant was dialed in from deep and took seven of his eight shot attempts from there, He's been playing much better as of late, but Paul Millsap will continue to be a roadblock in his way.