There were no evident indication of wonderment, no sign that the Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals in franchise history was secured by the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors explosively presented their team to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, May 30, firing off a stream of early three-pointers and stirring up the defensive force against Stephen Curry. By the end of Game 1, Toronto managed to secure the 2019 NBA Finals opener, commanding the action right through to beat the reigning NBA champions, 118-109.
The Golden State Warriors appeared like an incomplete squad since Kevin Durant was sidelined due to an injury in the second round of the postseason. The Raptors’ half-court defense choked the Warriors’ offense, hanging fixed with Stephen Curry, countering a good looks at the rim and rallying a 10 first-half turnovers. DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered leg injury, has returned to the floor after missing out the two rounds in the playoffs. However, Cousins struggled to proceed defensively and managed to put up only three points.
After an NBA Western Conference Finals in which the Warriors has benefited more than enough space and played at ease, the team heavily worked through half-court possessions but never got out much in the open area. The Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse assured that his encouragement words in the pre-game would be focused on transition defense.
Steph Curry did his best as he managed to score a game-high 34 points, but the stability around game play was insufficient. Only three Warriors basketballers scored in double figures — Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green — as the Raptors’ crawling help defenders did quite well to protect for each other.
The Warriors lost NBA Finals Game 1 for just the second time in 20 postseasons under the realm of head coach Stever Kerr — the other one was in the 2016 Western Conference finals against Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder, another organization that disappointed the defending champions with its versatile defense. Golden State defeated the OKC Thunder in that best of seven series.
The Raptors are enjoying an advantage all Thursday night. Toronto must cope with the possibility of a Durant return and with Kawhi Leonard’s undetermined health issue. Leonard, the who was leading the Raptors’ playoffs offense, concluded the NBA Finals opener with 23 points but scored just 5 for 14 from the floor and looked to be limited in his explosiveness and top-end agility. Marc Gasol stepped up to fill Leonard’s deficiency, contributing a 20 points.
If Toronto kicked off the 2019 NBA Finals series by competently proving that they were ready for a powerhouse team, Golden State must now address a strategy to win this series without Durant.