- The Raptors took Game 1 in their NBA Finals series against the Warriors. The start to this matchup reminded the Open Floor podcast of Golden State's 2016 playoff run-in with the Thunder.
The Raptors pulled off a 118-109 win of Game 1 in Toronto on Thursday night and the Open Floor podcast crew was there to witness it. Long after the final buzzer sounded, Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver got together in the wee hours of the night to provide content. They dive into Pascal Siakam's stellar performance, Kevin Durant's eventual return and more in this week's episode. But here, we will focus on the Warriors' rare Game 1 loss and how it reminded Golliver of the Warriors' 2016 series against the Thunder.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: I had some flashbacks, a little bit of flashbacks. So this was only the second game won that Golden State has lost during the Steve Kerr era. They're now 18-2. Do you know which other team throughout this Golden State tenure beat the Warriors in a Game 1?
Andrew Sharp: So I do because I saw your notes beforehand.
Golliver: Perfect. Way to play along. Our rapport in person is just perfect.
Sharp: I will say this, I was watching this game unfold and sort of racking my brain trying to remember a Game 1 that they had lost and I couldn't do it. So I appreciate the Golliver stat.
Golliver: The other game was the 2016 Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and what was the major theme from that series was like the Warriors being scared out of their minds by a team full of long, versatile athletic defenders who seemed like they were swarming guys, making their lives miserable. I don't know if people remember from that series, Games 3 and 4 Draymond was just horrible. It was like the two worst games that he had played, and the length was bothering him in addition to guys like Steph and Klay, where that's sort of what you have to have on the perimeter to keep them in check in any way.
So fast-forward to this series and that was the story from Game 1 to me. Toronto's defense bottle Golden State up. Curry actually responded to the pressure pretty well in terms of trying to put the team on his back and do what he could, got to the free throw line a bunch. He was taking a lot of contact throughout that game. But you could see, whether it was just some rush shots, whether it was Draymond trying to feel his way through the matchup with Pascal Siakam and Toronto's other big men, or even Toronto's bigs just holding their own on the perimeter. Marc Gasol moving his feet, doing a pretty solid job in some of those switching situations. There was flashbacks to 2016, and I think Golden State is facing some of those similar challenges. One of the main themes they had in the post game after Game 1 was we're unfamiliar with this opponent. We're still trying to figure them out, we haven't played them a bunch, we're not totally used to them. And to me, that's probably the experience that they're going to go lean on. It's like, "How did we unlock those Thunder three years ago?"
Sharp: That's a hard series to recreate. How did you unlock the Thunder? Klay played out of his mind, had an out of body experience.
Golliver: So the gameplan is 72 points from Klay in Game 2.
Sharp: I don't know. I don't know how many answers there really are. I will say this: one, the Raptors don't have Kevin Durant. They do have Kawhi Leonard, but that was my question coming into this series. I had to the two reasons that I was having trouble getting a read on what this was going to look like. Number one was we have seen this version of the Raptors for like six weeks at this point, and so it's kind of hard to know exactly what they are and how real their tests have been. Clearly, they are about as real as it gets. Their defense tonight was outstanding. Their defense against the Bucs was outstanding. Same with the Sixers, and they're getting enough from everybody else on offense to really be a problem. So that's number one.
But the size thing, I was wondering whether they were going to have the advantages that they wound up having in Game 1 because part of me wondered whether guys were just going to get played off the floor like Marc Gasol. We talked about it. What's he going to look like 25 feet from the hoop trying to guard Steph Curry on a pick-and-roll? But he held up really, really well tonight, was great on offense as well.
And then Siakam. I've said a couple of times on the podcasts over the past month, Draymond struggles with length. And what happened tonight was Siakam got into a rhythm early, and when he gets into the rhythm in the first quarter, first half and starts to see some of those shots go in, whether it's like the runners or kind of midrange jumpers, he becomes twice as dangerous. And he had been kind of out of rhythm for the last couple of weeks, but tonight you look at his numbers. I'm looking at the stat sheet now: he was 14-of-17, 32 points, eight rebounds, five assists. I think that's absurd.
Golliver: Yeah, I think if I'm Golden State's defense it's the easy ones early that you're talking about that you want to take away, because going back and looking through his clips he was hitting some really crazy tough shots, low percentage shots. I think if your Golden State's defense you're just fine with some nights he's going to make those, but he's not going to go 14-of-17 every single night, especially because they were contested and a lot of them were below the rim and sometimes in the midrange on the run.
Sharp: Well, and he did this in Game 1 of the Sixers series and then he struggled, and so that's the hope obviously if you're the warriors—that this is sort of an outlier game and Siakam has some of these games every couple of weeks where people start to think about him as like a centerpiece in an Anthony Davis trade and get a little carried away. But I don't know, he's still going to be able to cause problems for them.
Golliver: Yeah, I'd say they would have won this game even if he ended at 20 points. I thought Toronto was in control from the start. The most impressive thing to me was just how they came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. They weren't necessarily hitting their shots, but they launched eight of their first nine shots were three-pointers.
You look at a team where you have such an expectant crowd. I mean people are standing in line outside the arena like 6 am, waiting to get in here. So much excitement before the game. The Three Tenors singing the national anthem. The crowd's going nuts when they see Tracy McGrady, Damon Stoudemire, and there's like two ways that could go: it could swallow the team or kind of carry the team.
And I thought it really carried the Raptors, and the way they came out gunning it was like they were sending a message they weren't afraid and they weren't trying to play a feel-out game. It was like, "Look, we're here to shoot threes and bomb and we're going to harass Steph Curry as much as possible on the perimeter and try to make his life difficult and really bring the fight to Golden State," as cliche as that sounds.
So I was impressed by that. Like you mentioned, they win the Marc Gasol minutes, which I wouldn't have predicted coming into the series. It's another thing where they're going to have to sustain that if they want to have this formula work. If they want to win the series they have to keep doing that again and again, and I think Golden State will be spending a lot of their mental energy trying to figure that one out, because his shooting was big for them too. If it wasn't for Pascal and Marc Gasol hitting those three-pointers at the top of the key or outside the arc, Kawhi's slow start or kind of inconsistent offense I think would have shown through more obviously. But Toronto survived that no problem because those guys were hit their shots.