One of the biggest keys in this series for Toronto was to get lucky.
That’s one the biggest keys for any team that faces Golden State in a series.
Toronto has gotten lucky. Despite the series being tied 1-1, the Raptors haven’t had to deal with Kevin Durant (And won’t in Game 3), got Kevon Looney hurt enough to keep him out for the series, and banged up Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala.
All of that is the case for Toronto in Game 3. They can’t lose.
Here’s how they avoid a brutal loss.
Make the Warriors feel the loss of Looney
Here’s a list of healthy, good defensive players the Warriors have tonight:
- Draymond Green
- Jordan Bell (?)
- Andrew Bogut(?)
- Alfonzo McKinnie
Can Bell play in a big game like this? Is Bogut playable at all?
That’s a lot of ground to cover for Draymond Green, who, despite turning back into the absolute monster we knew him to be, will be tasked with switching on and off Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam throughout Game 3.
DeMarcus Cousins and Green will have to replicate their defensive performance from the second half of Game 2 to keep the Raptors in check. Cousins was all over the place at the rim Sunday; a stunning turn from his usual habits on that end of the floor.
The Raptors have to minimize Cousins’ defensive impact, overwhelm Green and make Thompson and Iguodala work. Playing Gasol and Siakam at the same time could be effective (A two man combo I did not envision in this series); Toronto has had massive success rim-running bigs (Siakam in Game 1 and Ibaka in Game 2). Plowing Gasol and spacing Siakam out wastes Green and forces Cousins to contest at the rim. Looney’s switchable at both roles. Now that presence is gone.
There’s another way the Raptors can exploit Cousins and make the Warriors miss Looeny, and that’s by…
Letting Kawhi cook in the isolation and pick and roll
Leonard had a quiet 34 points in Game 2. His -14 and Toronto’s loss late told the story. Leonard was good, but he was never great. He never went to the level Toronto needed, the level we saw against Philadelphia and Milwaukee. He never really took over.
And that’s okay. It happens. But Leonard is going to have to step up in Game 3. The Raptors can’t lose this game, and they need their best player to win it for them.
With Igoudala, Thompson and Durant hurt, the Warriors best options for Leonard are out or limited.
This has all the makings of a big Leonard game, or a takeover late.
Toronto can get Thompson or Igoudala switched one-on-one with Leonard, a favorable matchup given Kawhi’s ability to breakdown defenders and athleticism to get by them. They can also put Cousins in the pick and roll, and throw multiple guys at him to defend on the roll. A Fred VanVleet-Leonard PNR makes Cousins unplayable, and forces a hard closeout from VanVleet’s defender (A hurt Thompson or a healthy Steph? Favorable) as the shots have just kept going down for the Wichita State product. Running Kawhi as the ball-handler and a body like Gasol, Ibaka or Siakam puts another big man in good position toward the rim, and once again exploits Cousins.
Kawhi is Toronto’s best player, and with the state of the Warriors, he’s also their most lethal weapon. Him getting going and dominating should not be an issue.