Articles NBA Playoffs 2019

Playoffs Day 40: Siakam comes alive!

In a shocking turn of events, the Raptors have continued their playoff dominance with a big win against the Golden State Warriors behind Most Improved Player to be: Pascal Siakam! In a first for these Warriors, they start the finals down 0-1.

Toronto Raptors (1-0) v Golden State Warriors (0-1): 118 to 109

Golden State Warriors had one mission in the first half: stop Kawhi Leonard and they did just that. Kawhi finished the game with 5-14 and 23 points but was primarily a play maker rather than shooter in the first half. Their plan worked. They had managed to partially stop “the Claw”.

What they forgot was that the Raptors are more than just Kawhi…

By clogging Kawhi, they left everyone else pretty open, just ask Pascal Siakam who played out of his mind and had 32 points off 14 of 17 shooting. The Raptors feasted on defence that slacked off to focus on Kawhi, managing to get a double digit lead by the half.

Siakam looked incredible. He was shooting at will, scoring at will and using transition points to race ahead of the Golden State defence and finally get back the confidence of the player we saw throughout the season that is destined to win the Most Improved Player award this year. Finally he didn’t look terrified to shoot the ball, as he did against Milwaukee.

Ironically it was the supporting cast of Siakam and the rest of the starting five (with some great held from Fred VanVleet – 5/8 with 15 points), bar Lowry and Leonard, that led the Raptors to a win.

Gasol was 6-10 with 20 points and fantastic once again on defence, running to the perimeter to contest shots. Danny Green finally hit some shots. Sorry let me rephrase: Danny Green finally hit a shot. Remember he was 0-7 in Game 5 and 6 against the Bucks. Finally he knocked down some open threes, he was 3-7 from Three which is better than his last three games against the Bucks and once again was very important on defence.

The Raptors also hit some insane shots down the stretch, such as Fred VanVleet’s fade away two over Klay. The Raptors just had the touch in Game 1.

Lowry struggled with 2-9 but had 9 crucial assists. Foul trouble was a problem though for both Lowry and Gasol, who fouled out in the fourth.

The Raptors defence kept the Warriors under the magic 110 points to secure a win and did so with some very tough defence, making sure each shot was contested for the Warriors.

Also, the Raptors used three offensive rebounds in the last two and a half minutes to ensure that they had enough second chance points to seal this game. The Warriors need to box out better, it’s that simple.

There are some lingering issues for the Raptors though: Kawhi still looks hurt and playing (like Tim Duncan) on one leg. The Warriors will not be this rusty in (what I see as) a must win game two, and managed to stay in the game despite some awful plays. If Kevin Durant returns that changes everything.

That leads very nicely into my next point. The Warriors looked like they needed Kevin Durant.

After a 9 day rest you would have thought that Golden State would have been tearing the Raptors apart with sheer energy, but as is always the gamble with so much time off, they instead looked rusty, with sloppy turnovers (16) throughout the game.

We learnt a few things in game 1 about the Warriors:

  • DeMarcus Cousins can’t be played, he looked lost on defence, missed both his shots and had two fouls in 8 minutes.
  • Jordan Bell should not be your starting centre! For some reason Jordan Bell got the start over Kevon Looney (who has been the best bench player thus far for the Warriors).
  • Draymond Green has to ignore Drake and just do him. Green was not his commanding self, and despite getting into fights with drake and a triple double, did not have the necessary impact to control the game and the pace.
  • Kevon Looney is still their best bench player (4-5 for 9 points) and should likely get the start in Game 2.

The Warriors had all their offence running through Steph and Klay, which is to be expected BUT the Splash brothers needed help. Steph had another 34 point game, making his money from the stripe (14-14) and Klay had a quiet but good game with 21 points. Also Klay definitely travelled on this play…

But the Warriors just couldn’t get going. Whenever they looked to go on a run, the Raptors would make a stop or hit a three to stop any attempts at a run.

Andre Iguodala limped off the courts with 2 minutes to go and has niggling injury issues, which could really hurt Golden State, especially with an uncertain return for KD.

I expect Golden State to come out hot in Game 2 and win a tough game on the road.

Next Game @ Toronto: Monday 3 June at 10am

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