From Celebration to Preparation: 6 Reasons Why The Raptors Can Beat The Warriors
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
As the Toronto Raptors secured a history-making 100-94 win on Saturday night, it was the sheer jubilation on the face of Kyle Lowry at the end of regulation that will forever be imprinted on the collective memory of Raptors’ fans.
And while many fans are likely satisfied with the Raptors making their first finals appearance in franchise history, Lowry says he and his teammates aren’t done yet.
“It’s taken a long time to get here in my career, 13 years, seven years here,” Lowry said in an on-court interview after the game. “For me, I’m going to savour the moment, but I’m not satisfied. Our goal is to win the NBA championship.”
Toronto fans also enjoyed the moment. As the final buzzer sounded, Raptors fans took to the street, adding to the massive crowd in Toronto’s outdoor fan zone Jurassic Park (Maple Leaf Square) that had overflowed into surrounding streets.
Traffic around Scotiabank Arena came to a halt late Saturday as fans flooded the street and drivers stopped to cheer. At nearby Union Station, several fans danced on top a TTC bus to Drake’s “God’s Plan.”
Oh, and Toronto police confirmed that there were no arrests made as a result of the celebration. How polite.
Standing between the Raptors and their ultimate goal are the Golden State Warriors, who have won three of the last four NBA championships, including two straight.
While Vegas odds makers heavily favour the hugely talented Warriors, the Raptors should feel confident in their ability to compete with this team. Here, five areas the Raptors may have an edge in this series.
This Raptors team doesn’t have any weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball right down to the 8th player on their rotation.
The Warriors dynamic offence utilizes plenty of screens off the ball, back cuts and crisp ball movement to create space for their stellar three-point shooting.
The Raptors switch-heavy defence should allow them to contend with the screens and player movement, but communication will be key in defending this team that often outsmarts rather than outworks its opponents.
What to look for: In their previous matchup with the Bucks, Kawhi was asked to guard the best player on the floor. With Kevin Durant out for at least the first two games, it will be interesting to see which player Kawhi will take as his primary defensive matchup. Depending on how Lowry fares, we may even see Kawhi guard Steph Curry.
2. The point guard match-up
While Lowry will have his hands full on the defensive side of the ball, Steph Curry is a weak one-on-one defender. Making Curry work on defence can only help slow down the potent three-point shooter.
On defence, both Lowry and Fred VanVleet apply excellent ball pressure, which will be crucial in slowing down Curry.
What to look for: Kyle Lowry should look to attack Curry early and often, driving into the paint as much as he can.
3. There’s only one Draymond
Draymond Green is one the best and most physical defenders in the league. Raptors fans will remember him for breaking Jonas Valanciunas’ hand this season with a mighty swipe at the ball.
If he doesn’t end up on Kawhi, whoever he does guard will have to keep him honest at the three-point line. Forcing Green to guard the perimeter should keep him out of the hair of Kawhi when he drives the lane.
What to look for: With his size and strength, Pascal Siakem may force a Draymond Green assignment. If he does, he’ll need to find some consistency with his corner three to keep Green honest.
4. No Durant
With no Durant for at least the first game, the Raptors will have a golden opportunity to take game one. Durant (essentially who Jonas wants to be when he grows up) is not only a great shooter, he also collapses defences on his drives and unlike Jonas, can score in the in-between game as well when defences clog the lane.
What to look for: Without Durant, the Raptors can focus their full attention on closing out shooters.
5. The Bench
Throughout the last series, the Raptors settled into a three-man bench of Serge Ibaka, VanVleet and Norman Powell. While their rotation is much shorter than the Warriors, who ran 13 players onto the court in their last victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, they seem to have found the players they can trust.
Ibaka, who could start on many other teams, should provide much needed energy and rebounding off the bench against a team that can break your back on second-chance points.
VanVleet should continue to provide three-point shooting, while Powell offers playmaking ability with his drives to the rim.
The Raptors’ three man bench mob also provide plenty of defensive upside. For the Warriors Alfonzo McKinnie has emerged as a trusted bench player, while crafty veteran Shaun Livingston is a threat to score with his mid-range shot.
As we saw in game six, the Raptors bench are capable of manufacturing runs at the start of quarters when the Raptors usually rest Kawhi for a few minutes.
What to look for: With just a couple of players he can trust on the bench, look for Steve Kerr to shorten his bench as well.