TORONTO – the first was a secret. Toronto Raptors had come to play. They reached nine of their first 11 shots, in nine minutes forced the Golden State Warriors for two periods, and the fluff was all that goes to the defensive end. Raptors had set a tone in the biggest trial they had until the next major test.
Of course, it was a plan. In the morning of the biggest games, a video session is taking place at the Toronto workout staff. They surpass trends, potential weak points, determine that opponents want to run. Raptors do not see the Warrior often – most of them have only played in defending champions a few times. But Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green know these Warriors well because of their time with San Antonio Spurs and play the Golden State playoffs for each of the last two seasons.
So when Raptors gathered to watch the film on Thursday, it was not the head coach Nick Nurse doing most of the talk. It was Leonard and Green.
"My ears were open," said the nurse. "They were very talkative, informative – they have experience with them."
One point that was highlighted is that it is a Gold State – you have to be ready to play. And it started with Leonard, who at an early stage was hit by the burden of lumber in high traffic, then drove down the floor to block Kevin Durant's attempts. The block fell down on Kyle Lowry, who then missed the 20 meter ball pass perfectly in the hands of Springer Pascal Siakam, on the other hand – dunk.
Not long after that, Leonard brought back the turnover and eventually returned to Lowry on a flight.
"They really work well to throw off the first punch," said Andrei Iguado, the "Golden State" ahead. "At home, on national television, people really came in and they made heavy shots."
It was 38-25, Raptors.
The second was the drip of adrenaline. After the first leveling speed, it was a little surprise.
Both teams fought to start something from the beginning. Missed shots, wrong passes were rotated, trips were made. These things are happening. But if you're a Raptors, it's not the kind of energy you want to play long against a team like the Golden State that can explode a dozen at any one time.
"They are a great ball club – the championship ball club. They're going to come back. They're going to fight, they'll come down," said Green. "If things do not happen on our path, we have to find ways to get out of this funk, get out of this mood, keep the positive energy and win. Victory games open the game around."
Someone in the quarter-finale when Lowland was trying to start playing was a win-win game. Or play. It started with the defense goal, where he got the chance to change the Iguado Shots with three for one quick break. He quickly turned the other way, quickly rose to the Warriors basket, where he pulled up and fell down with the perfect little swimmer.
"Whether it's K-Lo, pulled out half of the court, Pascal gets a quick break or dunk to the other end or gets into a free line – they will change the game," said Green. "Even if you see that it is bleeding, you're trying to stop bleeding with something. There are some things we can do to help anyone do it."
It was 67-58, Raptors.
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The third belonged to Durant. As he had played lately – an average of 41.7 points for each game in the last three comes, it was just a matter of time.
"He's a player, man," Lowy said. "He really really really is really good."
Coming to the game, the nurse plans to send various opinions to Durant. You need to try to throw the whole nine-time star. But, since he thinks this is the way his team is designed to play.
"I think it will be our philosophy going forward," the nurse said before the game. "We have some good young advocates. They need some time and some reps against these guys to see how they can do it."
"These guys" will be any number of NBA superstars because the season is worn. Joel Emby, when Raptors takes Philadelphia next week. Giannis Antetokounmpo, when Milwaukee comes to the city four days after that. And perhaps one of these two guys from four to seven games is coming back.
And since after Leonard accompanied Devant's nine-minute quarter-place transfer, OG Anunoby got to try his hand to protect one of the NBA's most productive scorers. And later Siak did it. No one had a lot of success.
After only 20 in the first half, Durant ended up in complete takeover mode, while in the third, with another seventeen shootings, he was still 18. He scored a goal from the Middle Ages, stood out of the field and looked at his free time. Reporter threw everything he had, but everything was not enough. Durant won his team for the last 13 quarter points, with points "oi, come on" three figures from just inside the party court.
"I do not know what you can do," Siakam said. "He makes a shot from the logo. It's a tough, hard covering. You have to check everything harder and hard to do, but the big players are about to make a good shot."
It was 96-88, Raptors.
The fourth was a great opportunity. After the Durant border the incredible third place, he took a seat on the bench to start the last quarter. In return, the nurse lets Leonard run the frame with the Raptors second unit – the look he experimented with late. Toronto's best player was on the floor. Gold is not there. Raptors needed to be capitalized.
It was not. After a bad turn of the early Fred VanVleet, Jonas Jerebko came out dunk during the transition, and from there helicopter. Just three minutes after Jerebko was left unprotected by three, the Nurse was forced to call the time-stamp. On the other hand, Anunoby bricks opened three before Klay Thompson found Kevon Looney with lob. Leading level was less than four. Soon it would be two.
Until Durant returned halfway through the quarterly quarter, the Golden State won himself in minutes, 16-12. Leonards, on all of them on the floors, was kept with only two free throws in this span.
"We are young and immature. We always have quite good leaders and simply can not keep them," said Zaļais. "It's part of the growth, it's part of being mature as a group, especially with so many young boys. Get one another by knowing us, our identity."
But it always came down to Durant vs. Leonard. There was no other way. With a little less than one shot of the clock left the game, Raptors led the three, Durant was on the way up the floor. Leonard had everything to him. He made Durant's drive. He followed Duranti outside the circle. When Durant pulled out a game that attracted three, Leonard was one of his huge hands that was up above the shooter's head, forcing the rainbow from the shot. But at such moments as Durant is not missed.
"He took him to the corner, he was completely locked up – and somehow the guy pressed the shot," Nurse said. "And press it right in the center."
It was a related basketball game.
Overtime was a test. Be honest – do you think Raptors are about to pull it out? Did you have faith Or have you seen this story too many times before? Did you see that Raptors adore great leadership, forcibly overtime and drops the game, which they later say that definitely should win?
"When the team, for example, caught on overtime because of some heavy shots or something else," many times the team will feel sorry for itself, not coming out and playing, "Nurse said.
It was the focus of the discussion on the Raptors stand before the hours of overtime. They needed to go out with energy. They had to believe each other. They had to believe in themselves.
"I told the guys:" This is a good character test, "said Green. "Keep calm and defender to trust each other. Move the ball, find one another."
That's exactly what Raptors did. They got four fast points for a couple of heavy assets, each made by Lowry Assist. Warriors attracted it and had the opportunity to lead, but Leonard found the turnover and found Lowry during the transition period. He found a green procession. And the three indicators of Green found the bottom of the net.
"That's what I told them in the locker room – I'm proud of them," said the nurse. "Take the emotional punch in the intestines, and take some deep breath at the end of the game, and relax there and play overtime as they did."
From there, it was a matter of protection, rule, free rotation, and ending. Victory over the defending champion. It was undoubtedly earned.
It was 131-128, Raptors.