The Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors squared up in Game one of the NBA finals in Toronto yesterday. Led by Pascal Siakam’s 32 points, the Raptors comfortably put the Warriors away 118 – 109. Kevin Durant was cleared not fit to play, while DeMarcus Cousins was cleared for his first game since injuring his thigh in the first round of the Playoffs.
Draymond Green couldn’t guard Pascal Siakam
This Game was Siakam’s coming out party in this Playoffs. Though he had massive games in all three previous playoff rounds, his 32 points was a Playoff career high. The Warriors geared their defense towards shutting down Kawhi Leonard. By putting Draymond Green on Siakam, Coach Steve Kerr thought Green could help off of Siakam and shut Kawhi down. Siakam saw this as an opportunity to take it right to Green though. Siakam’s size advantage coupled with his ball handling and crafty post moves meant he was able to score on Green a massive seven times out of ten. Though Green is a great man defender he struggled to body up Siakam, and as he had picked up early fouls this made the job on Siakam even harder.
Marc Gasol’s game is a perfect for the Raptors
When Marc Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors at the trade deadline, Masai Ujiri knew he was getting an elite defender who could stretch the floor with shooting and passing ability. Gasol has surpassed expectations this postseason with his defensive savvy and timely scoring. On the Memphis Grizzlies he had almost double the usage he has now for Toronto. Not bothered by having less touches, he has been excellent at setting screens and passing out of the low post. He was a +8 in yesterdays game, his best rating since game five of the 76ers series.
In yesterdays game he defended all the way out to the perimeter when needed. He also hit two three pointers and had a game best 107 defensive rating when he was on the floor. The Warriors smaller lineups may struggle to defend him down low as they don’t have the massive rim presence that previous Raptors opponents had.
Fred VanVleet has improved as the Playoffs have gone on
After shooting a measly 12% in the series against the 76ers on only two points a game, Fred VanVleet bounced back to the tune of 47% shooting against the Bucks. Yesterday he was five of eight from the field and was a team high +11. His quickness and use of off ball screens mean he is a threat from anywhere on the court. While his catch and shoot game is also strong, his shooting came on in the last series when he was able to shoot three pointers from Kawhi Leonard drives. Not known as an elite defender, yesterday when guarding Stephen Curry he limited him to only one of six shooting. This is an added bonus for the Raptors if VanVleet can continue to limit Curry.