TORONTO – The first is an ambush. The Toronto Raptors come to play. They hit nine of their first 11 shots, forcing the Golden State Warriors to be two timeouts in the first nine minutes, and stormed all who moved on the edge of the defense. In the biggest test they have until the next biggest test they will have, the Raptors set the tone.
Of course, that's the plan. In the morning of most match days, Toronto's coaching staff held a video session. They transcend tendencies, potential weaknesses, make their opponents like running. The Raptors don't often see the Warriors – most of them only play champions to survive several times. But Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green know these Warriors well, thanks to their time with the San Antonio Spurs and playing Golden State in the playoffs every last two seasons.
So when the Raptors gathered to watch a movie on Thursday, head coach Nick Nurse did not do much talking. That's Leonard and Green.
"My ears are open," said the nurse. "They are very talkative, informative – they have experience against them."
One thing is emphasized: it's Golden State – you have to be ready to play. And it started with Leonard, who at the beginning struck a turnaround in heavy traffic, then ran to the floor to block mid-range efforts from Kevin Durant. The block fell to Kyle Lowry, who then dropped the 20-meter bomb jump perfectly into the hands of a Pascal Siakam who ran fast on the other end for a dunk.
Shortly after that, Leonard produced a turnaround once more, and completed a quick bargain with Lowry quickly.
"They did the first throw very well," said Andre Iguodala, Golden State forward. "At home, on national TV, the audience really likes it – and they make some difficult shots."
That's 38-25, Raptors.
The second is adrenaline. After the first flat step, it was a little surprising.
Both teams struggle to get things started from the beginning. Shots passed, passing imprudently, travel carried out. This happened. But if you are a Raptors, that's not the type of energy you want to play long against a team like Golden State that tends to explode for a dozen at any time.
"They are a great football club – championship football club. They will come back. They will fight. They won't stop, "Green said. "When things don't go our way, we have to find a way to get out of that funk, get out of that mood, and keep positive energy and make some drama of victory. Winning drama changes the game. "
What Lowry did in the middle of the quarter, when Golden State tried to run, was a winning game. Or play. It started at the defensive end, where he rose to turn Iguodala shots on the break in a thirteenth. He quickly turned to the other direction, hurrying towards the Warriors basket, where he stopped and fell in the perfect little float.
"Whether it's K-Lo stealing in half court, Pascal gets a quick layup or dunk on the other end, or gets to the free throw line – they will change the momentum of the game," Green said. "Even if you see it bleeding, you try to stop bleeding with something. There are certain things we can do, which everyone can do, to help. "
That's 67-58, Raptors.
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The third one belongs to Durant. The way he played lately – averaged 41.7 points per game over the past three days – just a matter of time.
"He's a player, man," Lowry said. "He is very, very, very, very good."
Coming to the game, Nurses intended to send a variety of different displays at Durant. No need to try to throw stars nine times. But because he thinks that's the way his team is designed to play.
"I think it will be our philosophy," Nurse said before the match. "We have some good young defenders. They need time and some repetition of these people to see how they can do it. "
'These people' will be the stars of any NBA superstar during the season. Joel Embiid when the Raptors host Philadelphia next week. Giannis Antetokounmpo when Milwaukee came to town four days after that. And, potentially, one of the two people to start from four to seven matches came into the playoffs.
So, after Leonard spent nine minutes of his first quarter change at Durant, OG Anunoby had to try his hand to keep one of the NBA's most prolific goalscorers. And, then, Siakam did it too. There is no luck.
After scoring just 20 in the first round, Durant entered full takeover mode, pouring in over 18 in the third in the 7-of-9 shooting. He scored from medium range, scored from outside the bow, and nailed his free throw. The Raptors threw everything he had at him, but everything was not enough. Durant scored his team's last 13 points in this quarter, interspersed by ‘oh, come on’ three-pointers from only inside half the field.
"I don't know what you can do," Siakam said. "He made a picture of the logo. Powerful and tough coverage. You have to try the hardest and make it difficult. But a great player will make a good shot. "
That's 96-88, Raptors.
The fourth is a big opportunity. After Durant's incredible third line, he took a seat on the bench for the start of the final quarter. In turn, the Nurse let Leonard start the frame with the second unit of the Raptors – the look he had been testing lately. Toronto has the best players on the floor. Golden State does not. Raptors need to capitalize.
That didn't happen. After passing a poor pass by Fred VanVleet earlier, Jonas Jerebko came out in transition for dunk, and things turned from there. Only three minutes after Jerebko was left unattended for three years, the Nurse was forced to call for a break. On the other side, Anunoby fired three open before Klay Thompson found Kevon Looney with a lob. The lead drops to four. Immediately, these two.
When Durant was checking back in the middle of the quarter, Golden State had won minutes without him, 16-12. Leonard, on the floor for all of them, was held by only two free throws in that range.
"We are young and immature. We always have good prospects and cannot maintain them, "Green said. "This is part of growth. That is part of being an adult as a group. Especially with so many young men. Relate to each other, find out us, our identity. "
But it will always go down to Durant vs. Leonard. There is no other way. With a little less than an hour left in the game, the Raptors led three, Durant walked up to the floor. Leonard mastered it. He brought up Durant's encouragement. He followed Durant out of the bow. When Durant stopped for three matches, Leonard had one of his big hands on the shooter's head, forcing a rainbow of shots. But at times like that, Durant did not miss.
"He drove him to the corner, made him completely locked – and somehow the man pressed the shot," said the nurse. "And press right in the middle."
It was a tied basketball match.
Overtime is a test. Honest – do you think the Raptors will do it? Do you have faith? Or have you seen the story several times before? Did you see the Raptors coughing up a big lead, being forced to work overtime, and dropping games that they then said they should have won?
"When a team is dragged into overtime like that, because of some hard shots or whatever," said the Nurse, "many times the team will feel sorry for themselves and not come out and play."
It was the focus of the discussion on the Raptors bench in the moments before the extension began. They need to expend energy. They must trust each other. They must believe in themselves.
"I'm telling people, & # 39; This is a good character test, & # 39;" Green said. "Continue to trust each other offensively and defensively. Move the ball, find each other. "
That's exactly what Raptors did. They scored four quick points with several heavy passes, each arranged by Lowry's help. The Warriors tied him up and had a chance to lead, but Leonard found a change and found Lowry in the transition period. He found Green trailing. And the Green three pointer finds the bottom of the net.
"That's what I said to them in the dressing room – that I was proud of them for that," said the nurse. "To take an emotional blow in the intestine, and take a few deep breaths at the end of the game, and go back there and play overtime like they do."
From there, it's about defense, ownership, free throws, and the end. Victory over the defending champions. One that is undeniable again.
That's 131-128, Raptors.