The Toronto Raptors took care of business in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals, defeating the Golden State Warriors at the Scotiabank Arena by a final score of 118-109.
Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points, but it wasn't enough for the Warriors to overcome five Raptors scoring in double figures. Pascal Siakam led the way with 32 points, Kawhi Leonard chipped in with 23 points and Marc Gasol recorded his first 20-point game as a Raptor.
Fred VanVleet, meanwhile, scored 15 points off the bench and Danny Green found his shooting stroke after a rough series against the Milwaukee Bucks with 11 points on 3-for-7 shooting from the 3-point line.
MORE: Takeaways from Game 1 | Player Ratings | Broadcast schedule
Can the Raptors carry that momentum into Game 2? Here are five things to watch in Sunday's contest...
How the Warriors defend Pascal Siakam
You wouldn't know that these playoffs have been a struggle for Siakam at times based on his play in Game 1.
After averaging 14.5 points per game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Siakam exploded for 32 points in Game 1 against the Warriors. He was incredibly efficient, shooting 14-for-17 from the field and 2-for-3 from the 3-point line.
Only four players over the last 30 years have scored more points in their Finals debut, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg, and they're each Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers: Allen Iverson (48), Kevin Durant (36), Michael Jordan (36) and Tim Duncan (33).
What was most impressive about Siakam's performance is that he did it with Draymond Green guarding him. Siakam looked tentative at first, but he took it at the former Defensive Player of the Year time and time again in the third quarter, attacking him in isolation and getting out in transition.
Siakam's scoring was much-needed with how the Warriors were defending Leonard. He saw double and triple teams all game long, and Siakam was able to take advantage by knocking down open shots and playing in space.
Green credited Siakam for playing "an amazing game" afterwards, but said he will do a better job of "taking his rhythm away" moving forward.
"You have to take your hat off to him. Even before this game you still have to take your hat off to him. What he's been able to accomplish this year. He's become 'a guy.'
"He put a lot of work in to get there and I respect that, but like I said, I gotta take him out of this series, and that's on me."
It'll be interesting to see if Green continues to be the primary defender on Siakam in this series or if the Warriors take a page out of Philadelphia's book by putting someone bigger on him, the latter of which would free Green to be more of a help defender.
Andre Iguodala's health
With Kevin Durant out, Andre Iguodala took on the responsibility of guarding Leonard in Game 1. Leonard finished with 23 points, but he did most of his damage against other Warriors. According to NBA.com, Leonard scored four points on 1-for-4 shooting against Iguodala and 19 points on 4-for-10 shooting against everyone else.
While Iguodala received plenty of help throughout the game, he matches up well physically with Leonard, much like he did with LeBron James in previous Finals.
The biggest concern for the Warriors heading into Game 2 is that Iguodala appeared to hurt his leg down the stretch of Game 1. Both Steve Kerr and Iguodala downplayed the injury after the game, with Iguodala saying he'll "be fine," but it clearly bothered him in the moment.
Not good. Iguodala hurt something. pic.twitter.com/LFpczSLZ20- Dime (@DimeUPROXX) May 31, 2019
Iguodala is expected to play in Game 2, but if he's not at full strength, that would be problematic for Golden State, to say the least.
Fred VanVleet's defence on Stephen Curry
Siakam and Gasol stole the show in Game 1, but VanVleet made an equally important impact off the bench. In addition to scoring 15 points - his fourth straight game in which he's scored double figures - he was Toronto's primary defender on Curry, matching up with him for a total of 33 possessions.
Curry scored only four points on those possessions, per NBA.com, missing five of his six shot attempts.
A better indicator of his impact: VanVleet's deterrent factor on Curry was 67.7, meaning Curry shot 32.3 percent less shots per possession than he normally does with VanVleet guarding him. (Basically, not only did Curry shoot poorly when VanVleet was guarding him, VanVleet was able to prevent him from getting up his usual amount of shots).
It's obviously just one game, but VanVleet had success guarding Curry in their one and only matchup during the regular season as well. Curry scored four points on 1-for-6 shooting with VanVleet guarding him in that game, leading to a deterrent factor of 57.3.
It's unreasonable to expect VanVleet to shut Curry down for the entire series, but if he can continue to make life difficult for the two-time MVP while providing a scoring punch, it would tip the scales in Toronto's favour.
Golden State's offensive rebounding
Second chance points were a huge source of offence for the Warriors in Game 1. They secured nine offensive rebounds in total, which led to 20 points, almost a quarter of their scoring in the game.
The Warriors didn't generate much of their offence from second chance opportunities in the regular season, but there aren't many teams that capitalize on offensive rebounds like they do. Both Curry and Klay Thompson are in constant motion, making it difficult to keep track of them once a shot goes up.
Just look at what happens on the following possession. Kyle Lowry does well to contest Thompson's shot in transition, where he was among the league leaders in scoring this season, but nobody on the Raptors picks him up after Lowry goes out of bounds. Thompson then relocates to the opposite wing for an open 3-pointer that cut Toronto's lead down to six points.
Curry scored off of a similar play in the first half, draining an open 3-pointer following a wild shot over Lowry.
The Raptors otherwise did a solid job of limiting Curry and Thompson in the halfcourt in Game 1.
Marc Gasol's two-way play
Gasol picked quite the time to have his best all-around game as a member of the Raptors, scoring 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field.
The last time Gasol scored 20 points was against the New York Knicks on Feb. 3, his final game in a Memphis Grizzlies uniform. His previous high with the Raptors was 19 points, which he scored on March 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Gasol didn't even do most of his scoring from the 3-point line - four of his six made shots came inside the perimeter and he attempted six free throws. Similar to how Siakam took advantage of the Warriors loading up on Leonard, Gasol mixed it up by rolling to the basket and attacking mismatches in the post instead of standing around and waiting for kickouts.
Gasol was also terrific defensively. Whenever the Warriors put him in a pick-and-roll, he used his length to swarm Curry to prevent him from pulling-up or dropping a pass off to the big man on the roll.
It will only get harder for Gasol if/when Durant returns, but until then, it appears as though he's going to be a major factor in this series.
"He's a really good defender, and a lot of that comes from desire to be a good defender and the want to stay on the court," Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Gasol post-game.
"I think his IQ is really high, he knows how to get out there and he's shown over the last few games - or maybe more than that - that he's pretty good when he gets a mismatch on a shooter. He went up in the last series and guarded [Khris] Middleton really well, and when there would be a breakdown, he would end out way out on the floor on those guys.
"I thought he did a decent job on some of those guys tonight. Just really good reactions."
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