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.
June 19, 2019, 2:44 pmDavid Vanterpool - Team - Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves have hired David Vanterpool as an assistant coach.
Vanterpool was a popular name on the interview circuit this summer but ultimately did not land a head coaching job. An assistant with Portland for the last seven seasons, one would expect that Vanterpool's responsibilities will increase in Minnesota.
Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 2:41 pmAl Horford - F/C - Boston Celtics
Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer is reporting that the Mavs, Lakers and Clippers have all shown interest in Al Horford, with some of O'Connor's sources indicating that the Mavs are the frontrunners.
Horford was expected to re-sign with the Celtics but the two didn't appear to be aligned in what they wanted moving forward, and rumors have Horford set to cash in on a four-year deal worth more than $100 million. He is an extremely malleable player who does almost everything at a high level, and his availability drastically changes the open market. Horford is a fit on just about any team build and should have no problem commanding a big offer come June 30. He'd be a fantastic pickup for any of the three teams mentioned, and his fit in Dallas next to two young, do-it-all stars would be great entertainment.
Source: The Ringer
June 19, 2019, 1:59 pmJa Morant - G - College
Ja Morant says he’s pain-free after undergoing a surgery to remove loose bodies from his right knee, and also expects to play in Summer League.
Morant is widely expected to be taken by the Grizzlies at No. 2 overall in Thursday’s draft, and Wednesday’s trade of Mike Conley completely clears the runway for Morant to play a ton right out of the gates. Delon Wright will also be around and is good enough to push Morant for minutes to an extent, but the Grizzlies figure to spend most of the season exploring a Morant – Jaren Jackson Jr. pairing and figuring out what works around that. Barring a draft night surprise, Morant looks like one of the safer rookies to project in terms of sheer opportunity. There was some worry that his knee procedure would put him behind the eight ball but it no longer seems like that will be the case.
Source: Ben Golliver on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 1:33 pmKyle Korver - G/F - Memphis Grizzlies
Kyle Korver, who will be traded to the Grizzlies when they complete Wednesday's Mike Conley deal, is expected to play one more season, and possibly another beyond that per Marc Stein.
Korver, 38, was said to be mulling retirement but it looks as though he's going to give it another crack. A notorious fitness nut, Korver keeps himself in great shape and relies on a skill that hasn't degraded at all with age. His place on a rebuilding team is questionable, however, and it would be surprising if he spent the entire season in Memphis. Consider him the same 3-point specialist he always is.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 1:29 pmJae Crowder - F - Memphis Grizzlies
Jae Crowder is headed to the Grizzlies as soon as Wednesday's Mike Conley trade is officially completed.
Crowder reasserted himself as a quality stretch four last season after he struggled in his pit stop with Cleveland. He might not hold much utility on a squad that's rebuilding, and Crowder's best shot at fantasy value might be getting re-routed to another team. Regardless, Crowder would only be a late-round guy in 9-cat leagues at best, and he'll likely settle in as a streamer for threes, rebounds and the occasional steal. If he does play out the year in Memphis, he figures to impact the minutes of Kyle Anderson and Avery Bradley.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 1:24 pmGrayson Allen - G - Memphis Grizzlies
Grayson Allen is part of Wednesday's Mike Conley trade and will be headed to the Grizzlies when the deal is completed.
Allen only appeared in 37 games for the Jazz, though he did end up dropping 40 points in the season finale when Utah rested most of its players. On a rebuilding team, Allen is a lock to play more, but whether he becomes more than a deep-league points and threes guy is up for debate.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 11:56 amMike Conley - G - Utah Jazz
The Grizzlies are trading franchise star Mike Conley Jr. to the Jazz for Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, the 23rd pick in Thursday's Draft and a future protected first-round pick.
The Jazz were considered the frontrunner to trade for Conley in the last few days and they are able to execute a deal that upgrades their point guard position without selling the farm. It’s now obvious that the Grizzlies will be entering a rebuilding period and Ja Morant seems the obvious choice to replace Conley.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 11:39 amKevin Durant - F - Golden State Warriors
ESPN’s Jay Williams, a Kevin Durant friend and a partner with KD’s manager, Rich Kleiman, told the NY Post that it’s too early for the Warriors superstar to figure out what the injury means for his free-agent future.
Williams has spoken with Durant since the devastating injury as he is still trying to deal with the post-surgery period. KD has until June 29th, the day before free-agency courting period, to opt out of the final season of his pact. Even though he will miss next season, he is likely to get a max deal either with the Warriors or elsewhere. The Knicks are still interested, believing that if there’s any player who can come back from this debilitating injury, it is Durant, who will be 32 to start the 2020-21 campaign.
Source: NY Post
June 19, 2019, 11:33 amMichael Kidd-Gilchrist - F - Charlotte Hornets
Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has opted into his $13M player option for the 2019-20 season.
Ugh! This comes a week after Marvin Williams exercised his $15 million player option putting the Hornets in a tough financial situation with at least $98 million already on the books for next year. It’s highly unlikely that MKG would have commanded a salary anywhere close to $10 million per year in an open market so this was a no brainer for him. Kidd-Gilchrist is only 25 years old and is coming off a couple seasons where he struggled with injuries while the lack of a reliable jumper makes it hard for him to have value in today’s space and pace offense.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
June 19, 2019, 11:16 amKhris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Bucks All-Star forward Khris Middleton is declining his $13M player option and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Middleton is expected to command a five-year max contract but he and the Bucks are planning to work together toward a new long-term deal. Middleton recently bought a new property in Milwaukee and Giannis has openly vouched for his teammate so we’d be shocked if the two parties don’t end up agreeing on a new deal. There will be plenty of suitors that can only offer him a four-year max deal, with the Lakers rumored to be one of them.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter