Bruce Arthur: Warriors back up their boast, use second-half burst to beat Raptors

Warriors back up their boast, use second-half burst to beat Raptors | The Star

Golden State forward Draymond Green, who missed a second straight triple double by a single assist, had an impact in Game 2 in all kinds of ways, including drawing this foul by Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

The Golden State Warriors had spent two days boasting, but then, it ain’t boasting if you can do it. They had lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which must have been a bit of a shock. Unlike the Raptors you grew up with, the Warriors don’t lose Game 1s.

But they had all the confidence in the world, and said they would respond like champions. The playoffs are about your true upper capacity — not a Tuesday night in February in Minnesota, or a back-to-back in Sacramento, but the real high end. And nobody can go up like Golden State. The Warriors fell behind by 12 in the first half, and decided to show what they can do.

These were the legends, reclaiming their turf. Klay Thompson fired away. Draymond Green was his shouting, roaring, all-over-the-place self, flirting with a triple-double. Steph Curry was good enough, and the Warriors got extra help from the supporting cast, thin as it is. Toronto got to within five with 9:25 left and it was centre DeMarcus Cousins who ate Toronto up, in his second game back from a torn quadriceps. Backup guard Quinn Cook hit a couple big threes, too.

Toronto had so many chances but in the last five minutes, they could hardly make a shot. The Raptors pulled back to within five points with a minute left, and then two with 27 seconds left after a Danny Green three. Kawhi Leonard nearly stole a Steph Curry pass. It was an inch beyond his giant hands.

Andre Iguodala drilled a dagger three, and the Warriors won Game 2 by a score of 109-104. Yes, Thompson limped off in the fourth, and if he’s hurt it’s a huge issue. But if the Raptors didn’t have any doubts before, they might now.

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Toronto led 58-48 with a minute left in the first half and Norm Powell missed an open three with 1:38 left and the building set to explode. Curry ended the half on a personal 6-1 run, and the lead was five at halftime, 59-54. Plenty of game left. Too much, as it turned out.

The Raptors failed to score on their first 11 possessions to start the second half; the Warriors defence went up a notch, and suddenly Toronto looked hesitant. Gasol missed and stopped shooting, Kyle Lowry still hasn’t hit shots in the series, and Pascal Siakam, after a transcendent Game 1, crashed back to Earth. It was, from the second quarter to the third, a 24-1 Warriors run.

Kawhi finished with 34 points, on 8-of-20 shooting, and 14 rebounds, but it became like the Philly series: not enough offence from everyone else. The defence got perforated in a way it wasn’t in Game 1. Golden State took control of the game, and the series. They won’t be interested in giving it back.

So now the pressure is on the Raptors, who will have to win a game at Oracle to win the series. Golden State had talked about finally having tape of the Raptors to pick apart, as if the rest of the Raptors’ playoff run had been played on Mars; it sounded like code for the Raptors were better in person. Maybe after three titles in four years, and even without the injured Kevin Durant, the Warriors needed the jolt.

After all, the Warriors had never lost Game 1 of a Finals. In the five years and 20 playoff series of the Curry-Klay-Draymond era, Golden State had only trailed in a series four times, or five if you include losing Game 7 in 2016. That was the only playoff series they had lost, by the way. They had lost Game 1 once, against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015. Ask Serge Ibaka, then-member of the Thunder, how that series went. At one point, the Thunder had a 3-1 lead.

“Man, that’s hurting me,” the Raptors big man said before this series began. “Every time I think about it I’m like, man. Yes, still. 3-1, and we lost? Come on, man. That still hurts, it still hurts.” He calls it the worst loss of his career.

So this wasn’t a still-coalescing Philadelphia 76ers team, or a first-time Milwaukee Bucks outfit that couldn’t adjust. These are the champs, Durant’s injury and all. Former President Barack Obama was in the crowd because he’s friends with Raptors president Masai Ujiri, but he’s also Curry’s golfing buddy, and the man the Warriors visited instead of going to celebrate their 2018 championships with the current freak show at the White House. Champs get to meet the best people.

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So the only certainty of Game 2 was that the Raptors were going to see their full and complete attention, and would find out how they match up to Golden State at full throttle. The Warriors seemed to almost be enjoying the idea of a new situation.

“The fact that I can look to my right and my left and see those two guys (Green and Thompson) and a lot of our teammates and know that they believe we can win whatever game, we’re going to have that edge,” Curry said. “If I throw (Thompson) the ball and he’s going to shoot it, I know he believes it’s going in. That confidence is contagious no matter what the situation is.”

“We have built that over time in terms of us being together as a core and a unit. We have to rely on that in this series, for sure.”

“We’re never going to doubt ourselves, no matter what position we’re in,” Thompson said.

Upper capacity. Toronto will need to find a higher version of themselves; the series can run away quickly, now. Kawhi treated his 60 games like practice before roaring like a giant, but the Warriors have the highest proven gears in the sport, and Durant is getting closer to coming back. Golden State has plainly gotten tired, even bored by the grind of dynasty. They don’t chase 73 wins anymore, they chase titles. And the Raptors are in the way.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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Kawhi finished with 34 points, on 8-of-20 shooting, and 14 rebounds, but it became like the Philly series: not enough offence from everyone else. The defence got perforated in a way it wasn’t in Game 1. Golden State took control of the game, and the series. They won’t be interested in giving it back.

So now the pressure is on the Raptors, who will have to win a game at Oracle to win the series. Golden State had talked about finally having tape of the Raptors to pick apart, as if the rest of the Raptors’ playoff run had been played on Mars; it sounded like code for the Raptors were better in person. Maybe after three titles in four years, and even without the injured Kevin Durant, the Warriors needed the jolt.

After all, the Warriors had never lost Game 1 of a Finals. In the five years and 20 playoff series of the Curry-Klay-Draymond era, Golden State had only trailed in a series four times, or five if you include losing Game 7 in 2016. That was the only playoff series they had lost, by the way. They had lost Game 1 once, against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015. Ask Serge Ibaka, then-member of the Thunder, how that series went. At one point, the Thunder had a 3-1 lead.

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“Man, that’s hurting me,” the Raptors big man said before this series began. “Every time I think about it I’m like, man. Yes, still. 3-1, and we lost? Come on, man. That still hurts, it still hurts.” He calls it the worst loss of his career.

So this wasn’t a still-coalescing Philadelphia 76ers team, or a first-time Milwaukee Bucks outfit that couldn’t adjust. These are the champs, Durant’s injury and all. Former President Barack Obama was in the crowd because he’s friends with Raptors president Masai Ujiri, but he’s also Curry’s golfing buddy, and the man the Warriors visited instead of going to celebrate their 2018 championships with the current freak show at the White House. Champs get to meet the best people.

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So the only certainty of Game 2 was that the Raptors were going to see their full and complete attention, and would find out how they match up to Golden State at full throttle. The Warriors seemed to almost be enjoying the idea of a new situation.

“The fact that I can look to my right and my left and see those two guys (Green and Thompson) and a lot of our teammates and know that they believe we can win whatever game, we’re going to have that edge,” Curry said. “If I throw (Thompson) the ball and he’s going to shoot it, I know he believes it’s going in. That confidence is contagious no matter what the situation is.”

“We have built that over time in terms of us being together as a core and a unit. We have to rely on that in this series, for sure.”

“We’re never going to doubt ourselves, no matter what position we’re in,” Thompson said.

Upper capacity. Toronto will need to find a higher version of themselves; the series can run away quickly, now. Kawhi treated his 60 games like practice before roaring like a giant, but the Warriors have the highest proven gears in the sport, and Durant is getting closer to coming back. Golden State has plainly gotten tired, even bored by the grind of dynasty. They don’t chase 73 wins anymore, they chase titles. And the Raptors are in the way.

Bruce Arthur is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @bruce_arthur

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