by Julian Spivey
My NBA Finals prediction before the start of game one was that the Golden State Warriors would defeat the Toronto Raptors in a full seven game series and threepeat as NBA Champions. In all honesty I would’ve predicted Warriors in five games with a healthy Kevin Durant.
After the first game of the Finals I’m already second guessing myself.
The Raptors controlled most of the game of Thursday night (May 30) playing stellar defense and receiving a huge game from Pascal Siakam, who scored a career playoff high 32 points while adding eight rebounds and five assists.
The biggest reason why I thought going into the series that it would be a full seven-game series was the veteran leadership of Kawhi Leonard, who’s been here before and won it all with the San Antonio Spurs. He had a less than stellar game, but still managed to drop 23 points on the Warriors while matching Siakam’s eight rebounds and five assists.
Siakam and Leonard weren’t the only Raptors to reach the 20-point mark in game one with veteran center Marc Gasol adding 20 on 60 percent shooting, despite fouling out.
It’s the defense in game one that should scare the Warriors the most and there’s no reason to believe the Raptors intensity is going to back off – the team does have two former Defensive Player of the Year winners in Leonard (who’s won the honor twice) and Gasol and other players known for great defense like Serge Ibaka coming off the bench. Fred VanFleet had a good game off the bench controlling Steph Curry better than other defenders have and adding 15 points to go along with it. VanFleet was the highest scoring bench player for either team.
The Warriors got good games from their original big three with Curry leading all scorers in game one with 34 points, despite seemingly having more trouble than usual getting good shots off against the Raptors D. Draymond Green had his third consecutive triple-double, but for the second time in these playoffs on a losing end (something that had previously never happened for the Warriors). Klay Thompson added 21 points, which is his season average, but without Kevin Durant (who could return in game three, but just as likely may not return at all) he’s going to likely have to add more production. The Warriors didn’t have any other players in double figures.
The biggest weak point for the Warriors in game one was arguably Andre Iguodala’s offense as he missed multiple good looks from three and only added six points. He also appeared to re-injure himself late in the game. They’re going to need him, especially on the defensive end. DeMarcus Cousins did return for the Warriors for the first in almost a month and a half since being injured in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. He only played eight minutes off the bench and missed both shots he took and was mostly a non-factor. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to play more minutes the remainder of the series. Even him being a small factor could really help this team and their lack of depth without Durant.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Warriors react to losing game one of the Finals, something they’re certainly unaccustomed to. If they drop both games to the Raptors in Toronto, they may be digging themselves a hole that’s too deep to climb out of before even going back home.