The two-time defending champion Warriors were considered the favorites to win a third straight title earlier in the week; however, with the Raptors taking Game 1, the odds have swung in their favor, and hoops fans north and south of the border are hopeful for a long, exciting series.
Game 1 was the first Finals game ever played in Canada, and the Raps sure made it memorable. Led by a career-best performance from Pascal Siakam, Toronto walked away with a 118-109 victory. Siakam converted 14 of his 17 FG attempts en route to a playoff career-high 32 points to go along with eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks, one steal and two 3-pointers in 40 minutes. It was a truly epic performance, as he became just the sixth player in NBA history to tally at least 30 points, five boards, five assists, two blocks and two made 3-pointers in an NBA Finals game. Who are the five members of this exclusive club, you ask? Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant. Not bad company to keep, huh? In addition, Siakam is also just the fifth player (and the youngest) ever to score more than 30 points and shoot higher than 80% from the field. The other four are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Adrian Dantley, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal.
With the Raptors win, the home team is now 14-1 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals over the last 15 years.
Kawhi Leonard didn't bring his "A" game to the floor on Thursday, shooting 5-of-14 for 23 points with eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, two turnovers and three 3-pointers in 43 minutes, but Toronto didn't need it. Marc Gasol chipped in 20 points with seven rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes. Kyle Lowry contributed seven points, six boards and nine dimes. Fred VanVleet remained red-hot, scoring 15 points on eight FG attempts off the bench. In the four games Toronto has played since the birth of his son, VanVleet is averaging 15.8 points while shooting a scorching 66.7 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 71.4 percent from downtown. That accounts for a True Shooting percentage of 88.4%
OG Anunoby (appendectomy) is listed as probable for Game 2. He's expected to make his 2019 postseason debut on Sunday, and should be able to provide the Raps with another live, long defender off the bench.
Golden State had won six straight playoff contests heading into Game 1, but couldn't make it seven. Stephen Curry did all he could, shooting 8-of-18 from the field and 14-of-14 from the charity stripe, for 34 points with five rebounds, five assists, one steal, three turnovers and four 3-pointers. Curry has now scored at least 30 points in six straight games, a career-best streak in either the postseason or the playoffs.
Draymond Green also recorded yet another triple-double, registering 10 points, ten rebounds, ten assists, one steal and six turnovers in 40 minutes. Klay Thompson scored 21 points on 17 FG attempts, but no other Warrior scored in double-figures.
Andre Iguodala appeared to aggravate a left leg injury late in the fourth quarter of Game 1 but said afterward that he would be "fine." Iggy underwent an MRI on Friday and, fortunately for Golden State, it came back clean. He is not listed on the injury report for Game 2 and confirmed that he will play Sunday against the Raptors. Iguodala certainly qualifies as an X-Factor for Golden State: The Warriors are 30-5 in the 35 postseason games in which he has scored in double-figures for the Dubs.
However, the Warriors will still be without reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant for at least one more contest. KD has been ruled out of Game 2, but according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Durant is expected to return at some point midway through the NBA Finals. That's assuming he doesn't suffer a setback. Per Hayes' report: "there's some optimism within members of the organization that a Game 3 arrival could be viable, but there's a stronger possibility that Game 4 is the most logical option." In addition, KD has "about three or four days of on-court work under his belt... His teammates are encouraged by his progress."
We can expect plenty of additional updates on Durant early next week. The good news for KD and the Warriors is that Game 3 is not until Wednesday night, giving Durant extra days of rest and rehab. Yes, the Warriors were 31-1 in the previous 32 games they had played with Curry and without KD heading into Game 1; yet, it's also worth noting that, dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Golden State is 0-4 in the Finals without Durant and 8-1 in the Finals with KD.
As far as their adjustments for Game 2, Golden State feels they have to play with a lot more defensive aggressiveness on Sunday night. Draymond Green plans to take that responsibility on his shoulders. Green blamed himself for allowing Siakam to get comfortable right from the start of Game 1. "I got to do a better job of taking his rhythm away, and I will," Green said after the game. "He had a great game, but that's on me."
On Friday, he told reporters that he'd look to set the tone for his teammates. "I have to be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball," Green said. "I think aggressiveness starts with me and everybody else will follow that. If I'm on my heels, everyone else is on their heels. I think that was kind of the story of (Game 1). I started the game not as aggressive as I could be on that side of the ball and it showed in our team defense."
If recent history is any indicator, we can expect a strong bounce back from the champs. They have suffered just seven back-to-back playoff losses over the last five years, and, incredibly, have notched at least one road victory in 22 straight series. During this current five-year stretch, Golden State has won 30 road playoff games, while no other Western Conference team has more than nine postseason road wins. The Warriors also posted the best road record in the league during the 2018-19 regular season.
The Warriors haven't faced a true must-win game since last year's Western Conference Finals vs. Houston, but they obviously don't want to fall into an 0-2 hole vs. the surging, confident Raptors.