For the Raptors to hang around and possibly win the NBA Finals, winning Game 1 at home was a feat they had no choice but accomplish. Last night, in front of a rabid home crowd in Soctiabank Arena, Toronto would do just that. Many felt that Toronto did not have the horses beyond Kawhi Leonard to outlast Golden State. On a night where their superstar was limited, the Raptors proved their critics wrong. It was the team as a collective unit that carried their franchise to victory.
For me, it started with the play of Marc Gasol. He led all scorers in the 1st half with 20 points and excellent defensive play that was consistent throughout the contest. At times, he made life down right miserable for several Warriors players. His physicality at times reminded me of a vintage Shaq. There were moments where players, including Curry, were sent to sailing to the floor. As a fan of defense, I greatly appreciated that. Next, it was Fred VanVleet who rediscovered his stroke, followed by the occasional three by Danny Green. VanVleet hit what would be the most critical shot of the night with 3:20 left to play as time was winding down on the shot clock. This was after the Warriors cut the deficit to 10 points. The biggest contributor of the night was everyone’s favorite 24-year old from Cameroon, Pascal Siakam. He was utterly unstoppable. It made me wonder if he was actually a warrior from the mythical Wakanda rather than a Cameroon native formerly on a path to becoming a priest. Siakam was a blistering 14-of-17 shooting for 32 points. To see his evolution before our eyes is nothing short of remarkable. Only 2 years ago, he was an unpolished player who couldn’t’ buy a bucket.
One of the things I enjoyed the most from the Raptors was their tenacious defensive play. At times, the Warriors were getting manhandled. Steph Curry was able to score 34 points, but he and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson (21 points, 5 rebounds) had to take a beating to earn every point. While, they got theirs’, the prolific duo was held in check. “We’ve tried to hang our hat on our defense all year. One thing about Golden State is you can’t give them space. When we did, Steph and Klay made every shot,” Kyle Lowry said.
The other aspect of Toronto’s play came while in transition. They were plain relentless and Golden State didn’t have an answer. “Our transition D was horrible. You give guys those type of shots, they get comfortable and it’s a different beast,” said Draymond Green. The Warriors were clearly out-hustled. One of the greatest benefactors of that was Siakam. Curry couldn’t agree more. “You can’t give Siakam any dare shots, and you can’t give him any straight-line drives to the basket. That’s just an effort thing we all can be more mindful of, “Curry stated.
Overall, it was a great opening game of the series. I felt that in order for it to have a chance of going the distance, Toronto would have to take Game 1. Thankfully, they got the message and made a bold statement to accompany it. It’s not time for the Warriors to press the panic button. They certainly don’t need to feel that Durant has to be rushed back to the court. As long as they play their game, they will be fine. However, for the moment it is nice to enjoy the Raptors’ success.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!