The Golden State Warriors couldn't put together one of their patented late-game runs, Thursday night, falling to the Toronto Raptors 118-109 in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Golden State hadn't tasted the bitterness of defeat since May 6, which was Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Houston Rockets — the game in which their sidelined-star Kevin Durant injured his right calf. The Game 1 loss also went against recent history for both teams: The Warriors came into last night with a playoff Game 1 record of 18-1 under coach Steve Kerr, while the Raptors were an atrocious 4-14 in playoff series-openers throughout the team's relatively short 24-year history.
None of that mattered, however, as the Raptors rode tremendous offensive performances by forward Pascal Siakam (32 pts, 14-17 fg) and center Marc Gasol (20 pts, 6-10 fg), as well as Kawhi Leonard's usual lock-down defensive effort and clutch shooting, to a crucial Game 1 victory. A victory that was earned in front of their home crowd, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; the first NBA Finals game played outside of the United States in the sport's history.
Golden State trailed throughout most of the contest, with their last lead (41-40) coming with 5:37 to go in the second quarter. The Raptors quickly recaptured the lead and would not relinquish it for the rest of the game. The extraordinary comeback efforts exhibited by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and the resilient Warriors in the Blazers series never could quite get going.
Steph led all scorers with 34 points, on a mostly-solid offensive performance, going 8-for-18 from the floor, 4-for-9 from three, and sinking all 14 of his free-throw attempts. Klay added 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting and 3-for-6 on three-point attempts. That, however, was just about the extent of the good news on offense for the Dubs. Their usual 'Strength in Numbers' didn't show up the way they had in the latter-half of the Rockets series and the entire Blazers series.
Andre Iguodala returned from his short absence due to his injury in the Western Conference Finals. He was somewhat limited, playing only 29 minutes. DeMarcus Cousins made his long-awaited return and was completely ineffective. It was good to get him some minutes, but the center has a long way to go before he will be anywhere near able to contribute in the way in which he is truly capable.
Golden State has their test right in front of them. This team, led by coach Kerr, has shown incredible ability to make the necessary adjustments to overcome the weaknesses others attempt to exploit, time and time again. Look for them to address better containment of Toronto's young star, Siakam, and doing a better job of screening and freeing up shooters and back-cutters for easier baskets and open looks.
Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday night, in Toronto, at the Scotiabank Arena.