There are not too many people out there who think Toronto has a chance in these finals. No surprise here, the team that is making their first finals appearance, led by a rookie head coach, and is known for collapsing in the playoffs is not the favorite. They are up against a team that would be playing for a fifth straight title if not for a Kyrie Irving dagger or poster of a block from Lebron. Everyone has already counted out this Raptors team but they swept the Warriors during the regular season, one of those wins came without Kawhi. As much as everyone has already crowned the Warriors as champs, the Raptors can absolutely compete and here is how.
- Defend Jurassic Park
So far in these playoffs, the Raptors have played exceptionally well in Toronto and in front of their great crowd. The fans have seemingly willed the team to wins at times and the Raptors have fed off their energy. They are a remarkable 8-2 in the postseason.
Throughout this run they are averaging 108 PPG as opposed to 101 PPG on the road. If they can keep up this energy and get ahead in this series to put pressure on the defending champs, they might be able to turn some heads. This is even more important as everyone knows how hard it is to win in Oracle, as the Warriors are just as good at home.
- Make Sure Kawhi Is Rested For The Fourth
The Robot Kawhi has done it all during this run for the Raptors and it will no different in the finals. He is currently averaging nearly 39 minutes a game. He has usually been gassed by the third quarter with hands on his knees and sluggish on defense or at least not his usual self.
The last few minutes of the third quarter are important. Toronto will have to keep it close and make sure Nick Nurse is able to sit him for that pocket of time and take advantage of the TV timeout before the fourth quarter. During that time frame, guys like Lowry, Gasol and VanVleet will have to carry the load and keep it close for Kawhi to takeover during crunch time.
The Raptors came back from a hole at latter end of the third quarter leaving Kawhi to take a break to start the fourth but the Raptors kept up the pressure as they went from being down five when Kawhi took a break to being up five.
Coach Nurse will need to play it right and the supporting cast will need to contribute in the absence of Kawhi to let him take control to close out.
- “Other Guys” Need To Continue To Shoot Well
The comeback from being down 2-0 was an effort from everyone. Game three and four were big, if they had lost one of those two games in Toronto they would have been down either 3-0 or 3-1 and it would have been virtually over but the “other guys” stepped up.
Norman Powell has been hot throughout the playoffs and found his stroke shooting 63% from three over the last ten games while Van Vleet has been hot, going 14-17 from long range over the last three games. Marc Gasol has also been shooting well, as he has gone 54% from three. Siakam has continued to provide constant energy on the defensive end while hitting on open looks and attacking. Lowry averaged 19 against Milwaukee as well.
The seemingly only player has yet to get it going is Danny Green. If the Raptors can continue to get this kind of production from the supporting cast, they are in business and will be in games without a doubt.
- Make It Hard on Steph
This might be the most important of the four keys to the series for Toronto. Great players will be great but you have to make it tough on Steph, both on the defensive end and while running around off-ball screens.
On defense, Kyle Lowry will have to do his job and be a pest for Curry and stay by his side. He will have to communicate with Siakam on the Dray-Curry ball screens, and they cannot let Curry get into a rhythm. Easier said than done but he can do his part to make him work on defense as well. Curry has been prone to getting into trouble and Lowry should not settle for jumpshots, he has to be in attack mode and get into the paint.