Mac the Intern
*Hey everyone! Just a quick note before we get into the meat and potatoes of the article: Sorry about not getting a bit more in-depth on coverage of the NBA Finals. Right as the series kicked off, I was at Camp Anarchy, which was three days of punk music and, in my case, sunburn. Totally worth it though!*
After trading the first two games, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors both looked like the teams that absolutely deserved to be in the Finals. As fans, it was hard to give Toronto their due, going up against the juggernaut that are the Warriors: heading into their 5thstraight NBA Finals, setting the record for the most wins in a season with 73 wins, and revolutionizing the NBA with their punishing tempo on offense, utilizing spacing and dead eyed deep shooting coupled with an ability to share touches and find open shots. There was no way that Toronto had a shot. Dubs in four.
Well, anyone (myself included) is eating crow. The Toronto Raptors have a 3-1 lead over the Warriors. ESPN’s BPI (Basketball Power Index) gives Toronto a 91% chance of taking home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Since the NBA went to seeding the playoffs 1 to 8, there has only been one occasion where a team has erased a 3-1 deficit, and that was in 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers came back against the Warriors.
While I’m smart enough to say you should never count the Warriors out, at halftime of last night’s Game 4 you could tell it would be a small miracle if the Dubs pulled that game out, let alone the series. Toronto, led by Kawhi Leonard, has smothered the Warriors. The Warriors make their money by grabbing rebounds and running their opponents into the ground, and getting buckets in transition. They use spacing to get open shots, and have essentially done away with the traditional positional roles of the NBA. The Raptors have found way to stifle that run-and-gun offense: play a stiff man-to-man defense and clean up on the glass. While the Warriors out rebounded the Raptors last night (42-38), the Raptors were able to take away second-chance opportunities from the Warriors, and when they were able to get second chances, the Raptors played a tight man that contested every single shot.
During the first half of the game, the Warriors looked like a different team having Klay Thompson back on the floor after missing Game 3. Thompson led the Warriors with 28 points on 11 of 18 shooting. Toronto answered back with Kawhi Leonard. In the first quarter, Toronto only it on 6 of 21 shots as a team-Kawhi was 5 out of 8. Serge Ibaka joined in on the scoring, and Kawhi and Ibaka outscored the entire Golden State team, 24-21. The Warriors could not figure out how to crack the Raptors defense. Or stop them on offense. Or really just play a good game. The Warriors are shook, and honestly, I don’t see how they’re going to be able to dig themselves out.
(All stats were provided by ESPN.com and stats.NBA.com)