NBA Finals 2019 game 1 is finally in the books and it will surely go down as Pascal Siakam's coming out party, the day the beast was born.
The tale of these playoffs has been the outstanding play of Toronto's superstar and clear post-season MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has had 11 30- point games during his team's run to the NBA finals to show for his efforts. That and his and his teams defensive prowess has helped the Raptors reach their first finals birth in history. As both teams traveled back to Toronto to play the first ever finals game on Canadian soil the Warriors set out to stop the wrecking machine that is Leonard.
Stopping Kawhi is tough and we've seen that this postseason, however the Dubs came ready into game one to stop The Claw, exclusively. And it is this exclusive treatment that was essential to the Raptors victory. The Warriors' game plan relied heavily on isolating Kawhi and letting the rest of the Raptors try and make something of this game. The Warriors, however found themselves in trouble when Toronto's depth became a problem and the supporting cast stepped up. 20, 15 and 11 points from Gasol, Van Vleet and Green respectively and an outstanding 32 points 8 rebounds and 5 assists for Pascal Siakam, who goes into game two as the raptors all-time finals leader in points, granted it's only one game still a cool stat to hold none the less.
Kawhi said post-game: “I mean, it’s a team game,” “If they’re going to play like that, then guys are going to play well, get wide-open shots.”
Clearly something Golden State should look out for in game 2. As hard as this defeat may seem it is barelly a spook for Golden State given that the Raptors were at their absolute finest tonight even accounting some of that mighty good luck. It was one of those nights were everything went in and there was nothing the Warriors could really do, perfectly exemplified By Van Vleet's bank shot dagger off one foot with a Warrior right in his face, when those go in there is nothing you can do.
Kawhi, however still made his presence felt as he finished 43 minutes of action with 23 points 8 rebounds and 5 assists to show for his efforts in game 1. A slow start for the All-star who went 2-7 form the filed in the first half finishing with a poor 8 points at the break. Not all bad news for Kawhi however as even with Golden States' extra defense he was able to get his numbers.
Outstanding support play through the game was complimented by a very sturdy defensive performance by the Raptors who look the better team on that side of the ball as they made the Warriors work for every single point they got. Especially outstanding was guard Fred Van Vleet who stuck to two time league MVP, Steph Curry, like superglue. Chasing him around every screen and drawing him inside the three point line as much as possible. Curry, however, still got his due as he continues to perform for the Warriors this post-season, finishing the contest with a game high 34 points, 14 of those coming from the charity stripe.
The Raptors look a new team this postseason, with old struggles of inconsistency left in the past, however, they will need more than good bench play and sturdy defense if they want to win a series against this Golden State team, that, let's not forget could get Kevin Durant back midway through the series.
If this is the case and Durant ultimately comes back for a possible game 3 or 4 it could be over for the Raptors who look to make history and win the finals for the first time in franchise history.
If Durant, however, fails to come back we might just get the most interesting basketball match up we've had in a very long time. The teams seem evenly matched and ready to go to a game seven if necessary and if Durant I'd unable to recover in time it could go either way.
If you were to bet on it, however, I would advise placing your money on a Golden state team that has proved they can win without Kevin Durant giving them a helping hand, if Curry, Klay and Draymond keep playing like they did against Portland the outcome of this series seems pretty clear. It is also important to note that the warriors have had longer time to rest before these finals and therefore were expected to be bit out of pace for game 1, as they were, so don't be too surprised if they come back and win game 2 confidently.
I'll maintain my prediction and say Warriors in 6.