Toronto Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse has a big problem at hand going into Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
After seeing his side lose 104-109 with Kevin Durant absent in the tie, Klay Thompson exiting the game almost midway through the final quarter and uninspiring performance from Steph Curry, Nurse’s team couldn’t prevent Golden State Warriors from achieving its goal in Canada.
Playing in front of the raucous Toronto crowd, Warriors got a win to tie the series after falling to a nine point loss days earlier. So with DeMarcus Cousins health in question plus Andre Iguodala’s, the Warriors pulled one out of the fire many didn’t see possible.
While Raptors grabbed the first win in the series, expecting them to run away with another victory was quite a reach.
For starters, Warriors lacked game sharpness after a full nine day rest period between sweeping Portland Trailblazers and Game One, Golden State couldn’t get up to speed early enough to parley its vaunted third quarter run into a win.
On the other hand, Raptors went into Game One riding a huge wave of momentum after beating Milwaukee Bucks in four straight games to qualify to its first NBA Finals. Those factors were too large to be shoved aside by perhaps the greatest team ever in the history of the league.
Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam top scored in the first game with 32 points but that should prove as burst and nothing beyond since the third year Forward’s workload particularly this postseason will catch up to him. In the opening round against Orlando Magic and the first half of the Philadelphia Sixers series, Siakam was excellent carrying over the kind of form he showed in the regular season.
However, as the series progressed deeper, his production waned due to clear fatigue and it is happening already in the Finals. In Game 2, the 6 foot 8 inch wing registered 12 points going scoreless from three point range and converting just five of 18 field goal attempts, five assists and eight rebounds in 41 minutes. Without the injured OG Anunoby to take some of the defensive pressure off him, Siakam won’t be a major problem for Warriors going forward at least on the offensive end.
The Warriors adjusted its style in Game 2 and played to its non-small ball lineup strengths by slowing the pace to get Cousins comfortable en route to the win. Golden State played into Raptors break neck speed in the first matchup it wasn’t prepared for due to the long layoff on one end and Raptors momentum on the other end. Cousins played 28 minutes-20 minutes more than he did in Game One-and repaid the faith placed in him as he delivered 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
The former Sacramento Kings Center’s defensive chops are far from the best but his large presence was enough to bother Marc Gasol who had six points and six rebounds after a 20 point outing in Game One. Now the series moves to the west; to the Warriors Oracle Arena specifically for Games 3 and 4 and in what is possibly two of three final games to be staged in the arena, Golden State will have the momentum on its side especially off that important win in Canada.
Irrespective the outcome of the series, Golden State will move out of the Oracle to the Chase Center in San Francisco next season and wants to end on a high note especially in light of poor results surprisingly recorded there. Steph Curry and Co. have managed to stabilize what was a rocky home atmosphere that saw them blow a 35 point lead in the first round against Los Angeles Clippers.
Since that loss, Warriors haven’t dropped a game in front of its fans as they took care of home court against Houston Rockets and Portland. Quinn Cook’s emergence with a flurry of three point shots keeps matters interesting should Klay Thompson’s hamstring prove tricky to risk in Game 3. Steve Kerr could play Cook and Curry in the backcourt or match Raptors length by starting Alfonzo McKinnie alongside Curry.
Prior to Game 2, Kerr gave a positive outlook on Durant’s comeback from injury to feature in the series adding another twist to the series Warriors are right where they want to be.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter