Warriors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 118-109 Game 1 loss vs. Raptors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 118-109 Game 1 loss vs. Raptors

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TORONTO -- One game into the NBA Finals, the Warriors are in a wholly unfamiliar place.

Behind their opponent.

Before a roaring throng Thursday night inside and outside Scotiabank Arena, the Warriors spent most of Game 1 trailing the Raptors, never catching up in the second half, and taking a 118-109 loss.

This is the first time under coach Steve Kerr that the Warriors failed to open The Finals with a victory -- and also their first time they’ve played a Game 1 away from Oracle Arena.

Here are three takeaways from a frustrating night for the Warriors in Canada:

Defense was the difference

It didn’t take long for the Warriors to realize they weren’t facing the Clippers or the Rockets or the Trail Blazers. Toronto’s defense is at another level. Maybe two.

The Raptors entered the game ranked second in postseason defensive rating. They’re long, they’re hyperactive and they function as a unit. They held the Warriors to 43.6 percent shooting from the field and 34 field goals -- both lows for this postseason.

Individually, only Stephen Curry (34 points, 8 of 18 from the field, 4 of 9 from deep, 14 of 14 from the free-throw line) and Klay Thompson (21 points, 8 of 17, 3 of 6 and 2 of 2) could muster up much offense. Open looks were, quite simply, hard to come by for the Warriors.

Ravaged up front

The Warriors could not have known they would be the victims of an attack by rangy Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam, who spent his evening punishing the back-to-back defending champs.

Siakam scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting. The 6-foot-9 second-year pro scored in the paint. He scored beyond the arc. He scored on defensive ace Draymond Green. He scored on others who dared to invade his space.

Siakam also had some help from his frontcourt partners. Center Marc Gasol kept Toronto’s offense afloat with 14 first-half points and totaled 20. Small forward Kawhi Leonard, the most feared Raptor of all, put in 23 points.

Toronto’s starting frontcourt outscored that of Golden State 75-18. That number, as much as any related to the game, tells the Warriors they are in for a fight.

The return of Boogie

DeMarcus Cousins was upgraded from questionable to available Thursday morning. The Warriors center didn’t start (Jordan Bell was tapped for that), but he opened the second quarter with his first appearance since April 15, when he sustained a torn left quadriceps muscle in Game 2 of the first round.

Cousins played eight minutes, totaling three points (0 of 2 from the field, 3 of 4 from the line), zero rebounds, two assists and two steals. He did not look as if he didn’t belong. He moved well enough; he’s never going to be a gazelle.

There is an upside here for Cousins. He got his first sip of the NBA Finals without, for the most part, hurting the Warriors at either end. If he shows incremental improvement, the Warriors should be satisfied.

Steph Curry among Warriors at Juan Toscano-Anderson's Oakland protest

Steph Curry among Warriors at Juan Toscano-Anderson's Oakland protest

How did Warriors superstar Steph Curry spend his Wednesday afternoon?

He took part in a peaceful protest against police brutality and systemic racism at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Juan Toscano-Anderson, an Oakland native and Warriors forward, organized the event.

"No matter the color of your skin, where you're from, how much money you got -- it doesn't matter," Toscano-Anderson said to those who gathered. "We're all human beings. We're all here for the same purpose.

"Right now, it's about black people. But for humanity, there's people all over the world being oppressed. We're just trying to take a step in the right direction."

[RELATED: Brees still believes kneeling is 'disrespecting the flag']

Additional members of the Warriors arrived after the walk began.

Protests around the country continue in response to George Floyd's tragic death last week while in police custody in Minneapolis.

What if Warriors had traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

What if Warriors had traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

Editor's note: Twice a week, NBC Sports Bay Area will look back on biggest "What If?" moments in Bay Area sports history in our "Hindsight 2020" series. The first installment: What if the Warriors had actually traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

Klay Thompson permanently has etched himself into Warriors lore over the last decade, using his superior shooting ability to help win, and even save, the Warriors dynasty. Thompson, along with Steph Curry, has given the Warriors a backcourt never before seen in basketball.

But back in the summer of 2014, the Warriors' eyes were on their first title in 40 years, and Thompson's place in the said mission was murky. His standing in the franchise was uncertain when Golden State dangled his services to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Kevin Love

For Golden State -- who ended up winning three titles in five seasons with Thompson -- Love provided star power that would have validated Warriors' rise. For the pre-dynasty Warriors, Love provided something Thompson has never been: A double-double threat not seen in the Bay Area since Chris Webber. 

Despite never making the postseason to that point, Love would bring an established name to a new ownership group led by Joe Lacob looking to make a statement to the rest of the league. However, the deal got nixed when team consultant Jerry West reportedly threatened to quit if Golden State went through the plan. 

But what if Thompson's talents were traded for Love? What if Golden State gave up on the Splash Brothers too early?

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

For context, the timing of the trade is noteworthy. While the San Antonio Spurs won the title with a modern offense in 2014, the league still put a premium on traditional big men who could roam the paint. In the same offseason, the Washington Wizards signed big man Marcin Gortat to a five-year, $60 million dollar deal.

But more importantly, the thought of adding Love -- a three-time All-Star at that point -- allowed Lacob to get the star power that'd spurned Golden State for years. Love was the prize, and the Warriors were eager to acquire him. 

But for Golden State, it would have made the team destined for dynastic glory merely a solid regular-season team. Spacing was a catalyst for the Warriors' success, and Love was most effective in the paint during his time in Minnesota.

Love's presence would have made Draymond Green expendable. At the time of the trade discussions, Green hadn't broken out as a bonafide starter. That wouldn't happen until the start of the 2014-15 season, only after David Lee was sidelined with a hip injury.

With Thompson off the roster, Curry would not have the necessary spacing or the heat-check partner Thompson provides. Love's defensive deficiencies would drive assistant coach Ron Adams insane. 

[RELATED: Six reasons why Warriors will play in 2021 Finals]

In Minnesota, Thompson would have been the franchise pillar leading a rebuild, a distinction he's never had the opportunity to live up to. But alongside Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad, he'd have little chance of success in his first season.

In 2015, he'd likely be joined by draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns. But as we learned in the Bay Area, Thompson is best served as the second or third-best player on a championship roster. The presence of Curry and Kevin Durant allowed Thompson to flourish on his own terms. On Golden State's stacked roster, Thompson's scoring binges and defense set the Warriors apart from the rest of the league. In Minnesota, his contributions alone wouldn't yield a title.

Trade notwithstanding, both players ended up on the right side of history. Love ultimately was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning a title with LeBron James in 2016, beating the Warriors along the way.

Meanwhile, Thompson won three titles in the Bay Area and has become an organizational pillar. The 2014 trade proposal looks preposterous in hindsight. 

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]