TORONTO, Canada, Jun 2 – A victory in Sunday’s second game of the NBA Finals would lift Toronto halfway to the title, but that isn’t over-exciting the Raptors or worrying defending champion Golden State.
Both teams have been studying videos of Thursday’s 118-109 Raptors romp in the best-of-seven showdown opener to make adjustments, Toronto coach Nick Nurse finding troubles despite the triumph.
“There’s plenty we need to do better if we want to win another game in this series. So we have to fix those things,” Nurse said.
“They were in a coverage the other night I had never seen before. They do a lot of innovative stuff. They probably got other things we haven’t seen that we’re going to have to adjust to on the fly.”
Golden State’s defensive scheme kept Raptors star Kawhi Leonard to 5-of-14 shooting from the floor, his 23 points eight shy of his average.
“I’m expecting him to play a lot better tomorrow,” Nurse said.
Pascal Siakam ripped Golden State for 32 points and Marc Gasol added 20 to delight Canadian fans in Toronto’s NBA Finals debut.
“The team that gets beat gets really determined,” Nurse said. “They try to fix things. They mostly play a lot harder and more physical.”
Cameroonian forward Siakam made 11 consecutive shots, the longest finals run in two decades, and became the first finals debutante with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists since Michael Jordan in 1991.
“They’re going to make adjustments,” Siakam said. “I have to be ready for whatever comes at me.”
– Champs ‘will be better’ –
Count on the Warriors, who had won 12 prior playoff openers, to bounce back as they fight for a third consecutive NBA crown and fourth in five seasons.
“I know we’ll be better so that’s always a good thing,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “It’s first to four, not first to one. So still a lot of basketball to be played.”
The Raptors realize that as well.
“We understand it’s a long series,” Raptors reserve Fred VanVleet said. “It’s going to take a concerted effort. We just need to keep our focus. It’s one win. Nobody’s overreacting.”
“You’ve got to protect home court,” added Raptors guard Danny Green. “Can’t give them any type of life or confidence.”
Golden State coach Steve Kerr has stressed improved transition defense after Toronto’s fast-tempo attack baffled the Warriors.
“A team like this that pushes the ball relentlessly, it’s not enough to just say transition defense is important. You have to feel it and we felt it. They ran the ball right past us several times,” Kerr said.
“It’s great to have the videotape. That’s where you can really learn. Areas of our defensive game were really lacking and we have to clean up.”
– Runs ‘like a gazelle’ –
Warriors 3-point sharpshooter Stephen Curry gained a new appreciation for Toronto’s speed as well.
“It helps to see it, for sure,” he said. “It’s even more glaring when you can see the flow from offense to defense or the missed rotations or sloppy turnovers. Film never lies, as every coach has said. You can’t argue with what you see on there and we learned a lot.”
The Warriors somewhat enjoy the challenge of battling from behind.
“One game doesn’t define a series,” Curry said. “The things we need to do differently as a team in order to win is the stuff that’s the special part about the challenge — energy, effort, focus for 48 minutes.”
Thompson says the Warriors must risk losing more rebounds to ensure enough defenders stop Toronto’s fast break.
“Siakam was running the floor like a gazelle,” Thompson said. “They were getting the ball off the rim and just pushing it. We’ll have to make the adjustment in game two and try to send more guys back. We gave them too many naked looks.”
Curry and Thompson will carry the scoring load with forward Kevin Durant still out with a right calf strain but expected back when the series shifts to Golden State for games Wednesday and Friday.
Golden State’s Draymond Green has three playoff triple doubles in a row, one shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s 1967 record run, and his five total triple doubles is two shy of the 1967 Chamberlain record.