People don’t call Game 1s of a series “feel-out games” for nothing.
Now that the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors played it, here come the adjustments. I had the opportunity to talk to Raptor Blog’s Dylan Litman once again about adjustments for Game 2. Here are his answers.
GSOM: The Raptors defense trapped Stephen Curry hard and often. It seemed to work until the second half, when he scored 21 points off 5-for-8 shooting. What adjustments can coach Nurse make to counter an on-ball Curry that can attack off the dribble?
Dylan: Steph is an impossibly tough defensive assignment for any player. When he doesn’t have the ball, you can find him running around screens like a calculated madman, waiting patiently for a sliver of room and a passing lane. Once his defender is wiped out, Steph will effortlessly launch a three, prompting all opposing players on the court to groan simultaneously. Against Golden State, you need to play stellar defense for 24 seconds every shot clock. If you slip for even a moment, Steph or Klay will punish you.
When Curry has the ball, he’s slippery, crafty and adept at drawing fouls. He shot 14 free throws [in Game 1], and I expect that trend to continue. As the ball handler in pick and roll situations, Steph positions his body close to the screener as he drives, making it difficult for his defender to stick on him. Because he’s such a talented shooter, his primary defender must duck under the screen. Far too often last game, the big men who switched onto Curry were out of position, getting to the spot too late. In situations like these, Curry either drives past the much larger (and less mobile) defender, steps back to the three-point line for a weakly-contested attempt or draws a shooting foul. Next game, Nurse is either going to have to make sure his big men are more disciplined in anticipating getting to those spots before Curry does, or letting them step back to prevent drives while encouraging weak side help defense from another guard.
GSOM: Pascal Siakam was the difference in Game 1. What other Raptor besides Kawhi do you think will make an impact in game 2? Is there another X factor off the bench?
Dylan: I thought Norman Powell played relatively well last game before being yanked, never to be seen again. Patrick McCaw supplemented his minutes with some success, providing a timely three but not a ton else. Nick Nurse mentioned before the game that he was going to stretch out the rotation to get a sense of what each player can bring to the table this series, and he was true to his word.
I understand that McCaw is probably more comfortable playing against his former team, as he’s likely aware of the plays they run and the counters he could use. Still, I think Norm deserves more minutes moving forward. When our offense inevitably stalls at some point during this series, Norm can be a great energy guy that drives to the rim at will (finishing is another story), and has shown a propensity for hitting the occasional three at a decent rate. If OG Anunoby were in game shape, I’d say he could be an X factor in small ball lineups as well. It really depends on his conditioning, which is an unknown at this point, as well as his mindset – he hasn’t played a playoff game in over a year.
GSOM: Marc Gasol played well matched up against Jordan Bell. He also took advantage of the clean looks that the Warriors gave up, not to mention blowing up pick and roll opportunities. Should Nurse continue to start Gasol at center or should he put Siakam there? If the Raptors put Siakam at the 5, what dimension will it bring to the Raptors offensively? Defensively?
Dylan: Nurse should continue to start Gasol, especially if he’s guarded similarly to last game. The Warriors opted to leave him open for pretty much the entire first half, which spurred his confidence for the rest of the game. In the second half, I thought the Warriors (or more specifically, Jordan Bell) did a better job at closing out on his jumpers. Unfortunately for Golden State, Marc was already in rhythm by then; he continued to bang his jumpers even when contested.
If Siakam were to see some minutes at the 5, I suspect it would be to counter a smaller lineup from Golden State. With a lineup of Lowry-Green-Powell-Kawhi-Siakam, I’d expect to see the ball swing constantly, with multiple cutters and players running off screens to get open looks from deep. Defensively, the collective length, athleticism and IQ of this lineup may give the Warriors some trouble. However, I’d wager that we don’t see a ton of small-ball without OG Anunoby present. In theory, he would swap in for Norm to provide extra size on a team that desperately needs to work on their rebounding. The Raptors gave up nine offensive rebounds, leading to 20 second chance points for the Warriors last game. However, as I’ve mentioned, OG’s conditioning and awareness may take a hit while he gets up to game speed, so I can’t exactly predict how he’d fare in a fast-paced, small-ball lineup right away.