Raptors take lead midway through first Finals appearance

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

NBA Finals
A shocking Game 1 win for the Drake-backed Toronto Raptors was negated in Game 2 by Klay Thompson (Photograph courtesy of Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images/TNS).

A surprise victory for the Toronto Raptors in the opening round of the NBA finals has been nullified by the Golden State Warriors coming back to take the second game of the series. Now that the two teams are tied with one game a piece, the general consensus seems to be that the finals are up for grabs, depending on Klay Thompson’s level of engagement. The elite shooter was clinical in the second match against Toronto, making key shots despite the Warriors being largely outplayed.

The first game of the series saw the Toronto franchise make their first-ever appearance in the Finals, but the squad certainly didn’t show any signs of nerves on the occasion. Each member of the Raptors’ roster displayed the same trademark composure that marks their floor general Kawhi Leonard.

The team opened up with serious pressure on the three-pointers, as well as initiating a lockdown of Stephen Curry. The Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr mentioned before the proceedings that Golden State’s weak points had been well exposed in their run in the semifinals. Kerr was right to be concerned, as the Raptors pushed ahead to an emphatic 118-109 win.

Ever since the loss of Kevin Durant to injury in the second playoff rounds, the Warriors have been a shell of the dynasty that used to be able to make progress through playoffs look easy. The number of turnovers secured by the Raptors was in the double digits, while the defense denied open looks at the rim for Curry time and again.

Managerial mistakes also seemed to cost the Warriors points. Kerr put in center DeMarcus Cousins, who was clearly still struggling to overcome his injuries. Cousins managed a mere three points in the game.

The Warriors earned all the space they needed and pushed the pace during their Western Conference winning game, but the sense of energy seen there had dissipated by the time the visiting Raptors stepped onto the floorboards of the Chase Center. The Warriors put up 17 fast-break points, most of which came far too late in the game to make any sort of impact.

Curry did his best to drag his team out of the dirt by scoring 34 points, reaching the foul line 14 times. The backup was just not there for Curry, however, as only two other players, Draymond Green and Thompson had points in the double digits.

Throughout all the years of Kerr helming Golden State’s playoff campaigns, the skipper had only lost Game 1 once previously, to a Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2016. The Warriors went on to win that series in seven games, and if history is a good indicator, the Warriors appear to be on track to repeat that feat against the Raptors after winning, tying up the series by taking the second game of the Finals.

Curry, Green, Marcus and Thompson each had tremendous numbers in their second outing against Toronto, showing the championship mindset that brought them all of their numerous records thus far. The team had 34 assists on 38 made baskets, making the win a true team effort.

Toronto was not able to follow up their defensive masterclass at home, allowing the Warriors to walk away with a 109-104 victory. The game’s turning point came in the third quarter when after being down by five, the Warriors turned their deficit to an eight-point advantage headed into the fourth.

Thompson exited the court in the fourth after complaining about tightness of the hamstring. He still managed to top the list of scorers on the day, scoring 25 points. Curry was right behind him at 23, while Green almost registered a triple-double, with 17 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds. Cousins made a start and had 11 points, six assists and 10 rebounds, all of which he piled up in a little less than half an hour of playing time.

Leonard faced the same situation Curry had just a few days earlier, attempting to rally his fellow starters to a win at home, but coming up short. The quiet forward made noise with a game-high 34 points and 14 rebounds, but his individual stats weren’t enough to push Toronto past their opposition. Meanwhile, the MVP for the Warriors was Thompson, who caught fire early in the goings and scored the first nine points for his side.

Thompson had 18 points at halftime, continuing his hot streak at the start of the third quarter. He was perfect on his long-range shots and combined with Curry for 34 points out of the 54 scored by the team. While the strength of the Warriors came from the big names on the roster, it was the secondary unit of the Raptors that kept the Toronto franchise competitive. Often criticized for being the primary leak in the Raptors’ ship, back up players Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell each had terrific games.

Game 3 of the finals took place June 5 at 9 p.m., and the Raptors’ walked away with the win, 123-109.

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