Nick Nurse (no timeout), Kawhi Leonard (passing), Kyle Lowry (missing) defend handling of Raptors’ last possession
TORONTO – Kawhi Leonard is the Raptors’ best player. He hit an all-time great shot to beat the 76ers. His late scoring binge in Game 5 of the NBA Finals had Toronto on the cusp of an NBA title.
Why didn’t he attempt the game-winning shot last night?
“Two guys came up on me,” Leonard said through his trademark goofy laugh. “I don’t know if I could have got a shot off. It’s hard. If you got two guys on top of you, you have to try to find the right play.”
Leonard passed to Fred VanVleet, who swung the ball to Kyle Lowry, who hoisted the game-winning attempt over Draymond Green. It sailed wide of the backboard, giving the Warriors a 106-105 season-extending win.
“He blocked it,” Lowry said. “I’m not going to miss it. He got a little piece of it.”
Reasonable explanations by both players.
But Raptors coach Nick Nurse is also facing scrutiny. Why didn’t he call timeout after DeMarcus Cousins set an illegal screen with 15.7 seconds left?
“I was confident we would come down and play and make the right decisions and get a good shot,” Nurse said. “I have a lot of faith in those guys.”
This is the type of decision people judge primarily with hindsight.
Calling a timeout would have given the defense more opportunity to set. The more scrambled a situation, the more it tends to benefit the offense.
If the Raptors scored, Nurse would’ve be hailed for his decision.
But Golden State was also on a 9-2 run. Maybe Toronto needed settling.
A timeout also could’ve gotten the Raptors into their play sooner. Toronto was trailing and an opportunity to foul after a miss and get a second shot would’ve provided value.
Instead, the Raptors inbounded in the backcourt and, amid Golden State pressure, passed closer to their own basket. By the time Fred VanVleet brought the ball up court and got it to Leonard, just nine seconds remained, and Leonard was closer to halfcourt than the 3-point arc.
Andre Iguodala left Lowry to double Leonard, and Leonard made the right play by passing. Meanwhile, Draymond Green fought Marc Gasol for position inside. By fronting Gasol, Green put himself in position to close hard on Lowry and get the game- and season-saving block.
Rather than rush to blame Toronto for justifiable decisions, we should credit the Warriors for a well-executed defensive possession.