NBA Finals 2019

Raptors stay focused on task

The Warriors' Stephen Curry is defended by the Raptors' Fred VanVleet as part of a box-and-one strategy in Game Two in Ontario, Canada.
The Warriors' Stephen Curry is defended by the Raptors' Fred VanVleet as part of a box-and-one strategy in Game Two in Ontario, Canada.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Golden State injury hit but Toronto have offensive problems and need to innovate

OAKLAND (California) • The Toronto Raptors have a prime opportunity to jump ahead in the NBA Finals over the injury-plagued Golden State Warriors but they are not changing their measured approach to the pivotal contest.

The Finals debutants from Canada do not feel they hold the upper hand in Game 3 today because they believe that the two-time National Basketball Association defending champions still have "really talented" bench players.

All-Star guard Kyle Lowry said on Tuesday: "No matter the situation. We want to be the first to four and every game is an urgent game. You're in the NBA Finals, so it doesn't matter.

"They still have professional basketball players so you still got to be ready to go out there and play your butt off and play hard."

With the series tied at 1-1 moving back to Oakland, the Warriors may have home advantage. But they will not be able to draw on All-Star forward Kevin Durant and reserve centre Kevon Looney, while another All-Star guard Klay Thompson is a doubt with a hamstring injury.

The rest of the team are also dealing with various maladies.

All-Star guard Stephen Curry is playing through a finger sprain, forward Andre Iguodala has a bothersome leg injury and centre DeMarcus Cousins, who was thrust into the line-up in Game 2, is still working his way back after practically missing the entire post-season.

While the battered and bruised Warriors' "Strength in Numbers" slogan will be put to the test, the Raptors are not getting ahead of themselves - not least because of their own problems.

Coach Nick Nurse will be addressing their need to score more after shooting just 37.2 per cent from the floor in their Game 2 loss.

He said: "It's always a game of rhythm a little bit and you have to watch what's happening. We talk a lot about our shot spectrum, the shots we're trying to get.

"We have to get a certain amount of paint touches. We have to get the ball side to side. Those are things you just have to keep an eye on. We just had some lulls in those three areas in Game 2."

  • 37.2%

    Toronto's shooting percentage in their Game 2 loss.

Defence is also something he is working on to rein in the Warriors, who are determined to sign off on a high after 47 years at the Oracle Arena with their fourth championship title in five years. They will move to the Chase Centre in San Francisco next season.

Nurse used a box-and-one strategy late on last Sunday and though his team ultimately fell short, he left Golden State impressed with its application as they had "never seen it in the NBA".

The strategy, a zone defence with reserve guard Fred VanVleet tight on Curry, was a spur-of-the-moment move and the latter warned his teammates they "just got to be able to adapt" to more twists and turns.

He added: "It was obviously innovative and unexpected in terms of defence you haven't seen in a while. But we'll be prepared for what they throw at us.

"That's pretty much what the Finals is about at this stage, where you have to expect to see literally anything and a lot of desperation in certain moments."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2019, with the headline 'Raptors stay focused on task'. Print Edition | Subscribe