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The Warriors Need to Find a Third Shooter in Game 2 of NBA Finals

The Warriors didn’t have enough shooting on the floor in Game 1 and the result was a playoff-low 34 made field goals. Golden State needs another outside threat to keep Toronto's defense honest in Game 2.

After their loss to the Raptors to start the Finals, the Warriors admitted after Game 1 their lack of familiarity with their opponent contributed to their less-than-stellar effort to tip off the series. Toronto had a banner game offensively, and slowed down Golden State’s halfcourt offense better than anyone else has so far this postseason. Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam were revelations for the Raptors, and now the Dubs are facing their first 0–1 deficit since the 2016 Western Conference Finals. For Golden State to bounce back in Game 2, particularly on the offensive end, it needs more space for its stars to operate.

The biggest surprise in Game 1 was how handily the Raptors won Gasol’s minutes on the floor. The lumbering big was incredibly effective on both sides of the floor, particularly when he was asked to trap Stephen Curry in the pick-and-roll. As we covered after Game 1, the Warriors didn’t have the shooting on the floor to make Toronto pay for its aggressive defensive scheme, and the result was a playoff-low 34 made field goals. For Golden State, playing Gasol off the floor isn’t exactly a simple path to success (because of Toronto’s defensive flexibility), but finding lineups with more shooting could not only help the halfcourt offense, it could make the jobs of Curry and Klay Thompson considerably easier.

The Dubs started Jordan Bell in Game 1, and he was largely ineffective as a screener for Curry. Kevan Looney’s insertion next to Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green didn’t lead to much more success either. A low-hanging fruit option for Game 2 for Steve Kerr would be to start small, like he did against the Rockets in the second round. Inserting Alfonzo McKinnie or even Jonas Jerebko into the starting lineup could help alleviate some of the Warriors’ spacing concerns.

McKinnie and Jerebko aren’t pure, knockdown shooters. They did combine to shoot four-of-six from three in Game 1, but the Raptors seemed content to let them fire from outside. They still may be Golden State’s easiest option as an initial counter. Starting McKinnie would put Green back in the screener role for Curry on high pick and rolls. If Gasol is guarding Draymond, and is still trapping Curry off screens, Green has proven more than capable as a roll man, and McKinnie certainly has a much better chance of hurting the Raptors from the outside than Bell or Looney.

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Toronto would likely still play a step or two off the three-point line in this situation, and it would be up to McKinnie to connect on his open looks. If the Raptors are eventually forced to pay more attention to other parts of the floor, more shots will open up for Curry and Thompson. Playing without a big could also speed up the pace of the game and create more possessions, something Toronto struggled with in its first two games against the Bucks.

The Raptors could counter by sticking Gasol on one of the wings and having Kawhi Leonard or Siakam guard Green, thus enabling them to switch the Curry-Green pick and roll. That still creates some issues. Golden State can attack Gasol through off-ball movement with Thompson. And in that case Toronto—while having the collective defensive IQ to pull something like this off—would be forced to significantly alter the defensive gameplan that’s been successful so far in the playoffs.

A McKinnie-for-Kevin Durant death lineup is just one option for the Warriors in Game 2. It isn’t a cure-all fix, but Golden State also doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. The Dubs still had a relatively high 112.4 offensive rating (per in Game 1, and they did a great job guarding Kawhi, if Siakam doesn’t shoot 82.3% from the field again, the Warriors will already be in good shape. But a staple of this Golden State dynasty has been how its backcourt forces opponents’ frontcourts into painful situations. The Raptors dictated the terms of that action in Game 1. It won’t be simple without Durant, but getting even the tiniest bit more spacing on the floor should help the Warriors look a lot more like the Warriors in Game 2.