On the eve of a do-or-die elimination game 5 for the Golden State Warriors, I once again talked to Raptors HQ’s Dylan Litman. He shared his thoughts about how the Raptors should defend Kevin Durant in his potential return to the lineup, Kawhi Leonard’s free agency plans and what surprised him most about the series.
GSoM: There’s a strong possibility that Durant will be playing in Game 5. How should the Raptors guard him? Do you see the defense gravitating toward him instead of Curry and Thompson? Could you see the Raptors switching everything and forcing more ISO shots than not?
Dylan: I think if Durant plays, he’ll match up primarily against Siakam with Marc helping off of Looney. Siakam’s length and quickness can be a deadly defensive duo alongside Gasol’s active hands. When you throw Kawhi Leonard into the mix, the Raptors can disrupt even the most talent of scorers.
Though, with Leonard pitching in, Draymond Green will likely see more time as a facilitator. Fred VanVleet needs to be diligent in chasing around Steph Curry, while the rest of the guards must be constantly vigilant of the Warriors’ off-ball movement. I think switching will be vital, but it must be calculated. This Warriors team is too talented, and just one bad matchup can cause havoc.
GSoM: Kawhi Leonard is a free agent after this year. What is the vibe around the organization? Are their clues whether he’ll stay in Toronto or leave?
Dylan: There are some clues on both sides (neither of which I give much credence to), and as a Toronto resident and devoted Raptors fan, I’ve seen them all. These hints are seemingly never-ending; just yesterday, Kawhi Leonard responded to the reports that he bought a house in Toronto. He admitted he hadn’t… “yet”. Not surprisingly, everyone in Toronto is freaking out about what “yet” means in this context.
Speculation aside, the primary vibes in the city are overwhelming pride for what the team has accomplished and hopeful excitement for what’s to come. After that though, in true Toronto fashion, I’d say very slight feelings of dread and nervousness creep into some circles:
“Is Kawhi staying?”
“What if Durant comes back?”
“I still don’t know what ‘yet’ means!”
Above all though, I’ve never seen the city this banded together. I feel an immense sense of togetherness while going about my daily life and it’s quite amazing.
GSoM: What has surprised you the most about this series? What has surprised you the least?
Dylan: What surprised me the least is how effective Kawhi Leonard has been. For three straight series, I watched Leonard dismantle the toughest of opponents through injury and I’ve come to expect that of him. Of course, he’s not perfect and is prone to an off-night here or there. Still, his off-nights are better than anything I could’ve possibly imagined witnessing a year ago, so I’ll take it.
What surprised me the most in these Finals is just how well the Raptors have fared against the champion Golden State Warriors. Heading into Game 1, I prayed that Toronto wasn’t going to run into another shooting drought. They have missed some open looks for extended stretches this series, but now it’s usually followed by a run of staunch defense and exceptional shot making. Fred VanVleet’s continued brilliance is astounding, while Serge Ibaka’s contributions off the bench have proven crucial at times. This Raptors team is well-run, well-built and possesses the resilience and talent to dethrone the champs. I don’t think I wholeheartedly believed that before the series began, but I sure do now.