TORONTO. The first was an ambush. Toronto predators came to play. They hit nine of their first 11 shots, forced the Golden Warriors into two timeouts during the first nine minutes and collected everything that moved at the defensive end. In the biggest test they had before the next biggest test they would receive, the Raptors set the tone.
Of course it was a plan. On the morning of most game days, the Toronto coaching staff holds a video session. They overcome tendencies, potential weaknesses, make their opponents win. Raptors often do not see warriors – most of them only played defending champions once. But Cavi Leonard and Danny Green know these Warriors well, thanks to their time with San Antonio Spurs and playing the Golden State in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
So when the predators got together to watch the film on Thursday, it’s not the head coach Nick Nurse, who does most of the talking. It was Leonard and Green.
“My ears were open,” said the nurse. "They were very talkative, informative – they have experience against them."
One point that was emphasized: this is the Golden State – you have to prepare for the game. And it began with Leonard, who at an early stage struck a U-turn in heavy traffic, and then raced across the floor to block Kevin Durant’s attempt in the middle of the range. The block fell to Kyle Lowry, who then dropped the 20-meter bomb-break completely into the hands of sprinter Pascal Siakam at the other end for the castle.
Shortly thereafter, Leonard revolved and quickly finished Lowry on the move.
“They did a really good job of throwing the first blow,” said Andre Igodala, the forward of the Golden State. “At home, on national television, they really crowded – and they took some hard shots.”
It was 38-25, predators.
The second is adrenaline. After the initial tempo of the first, it was a bit of a surprise.
Both teams struggled to start something at the very beginning. The shots were missed, unreasonable passes were passed, trips were made. It happens. But if you're a predator, it's not the energy you want to play with for a long time against a team such as Golden State that can explode for a dozen at any time.
“They are a great club of balls – a championship soccer club. They are going back. They are going to fight. They are not going to leave, ”Green said. “When everything goes wrong, we have to find ways to get out of this funk, get out of this mood and save positive energy and make some winning games. Winning games turn the game around. ”
What Lowrie did about halfway through the quarter, since the Golden State was trying to win, the game was a winning one. Or play. It began with a defensive end, where he rose to change Igudala's shot into a quick three-on-one break. He quickly turned the other way, rushing straight to the Warrior's basket, where he stopped and fell into the perfect little float.
“Whether K-Lo gets theft on semi-trailers, Pascal gets a quick breakthrough or dunk on the other end or falls into the free throw line – this will change the momentum of the game,” Green said. “Even if you see that it is bleeding, you are trying to stop the bleeding with something. There are certain things we can do that everyone can do to help. ”
It was 67-58 years old, predators.
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The third belonged to Durant. The way he played lately – an average of 41.7 points per game over the past three days – it was only a matter of time.
"He's a damn gambler, boy," said Lowry. "He is really, really, really, very good."
Arriving at the game, the Nurse intended to send different views on Durant. Do not necessarily try to throw a nine-star. But because he thinks it is the way his team should play.
“I think this will be our philosophy in the future,” said the Nurse before the game. “We have good, young defenders. They need some time and a few representatives against these guys to see how they can do it. ”
"These guys" will be any number of NBA superstars as the season wears. Joel Embid, when the predators arrange for Philadelphia next week. Giannis Antetokounmpo, when Milwaukee arrives in the city four days after. And, potentially, one of these two guys anywhere from four to seven games is a playoff.
So, after Leonard spent his nine-minute shift in the first quarter on Durant, OG Anunobi tried to overcome one of the most prolific NBA scorers. And later Siakam too. No one was lucky.
Having scored only 20 in the first half, Durant went into full capture mode, scoring 18 more in the third to 7th shooting. He scored from the middle of the range, scoring from behind the arc and nailing his free throws. The predators threw everything they had, but everything was not enough. Durant scored 13 points for his team in the quarter finals, with an emphasis on “oh, come on” three pointers from the inside at noon.
“I don’t know what you can do,” said Siakam. “He takes pictures from the logo. This is hard, hard coverage. You just have to try your best and make it hard. But great players are going to take good pictures. ”
It was 96-88, predators.
Fourth is a great opportunity. After Durant was an incredible third, he took a seat on the bench for the start of the final quarter. In turn, the Nurse allowed Leonard to start the shot from the second Raptors unit — a look he had experimented with lately. Toronto had the best player on the floor. There was no golden state. Predators had to be capitalized.
It should not have been. After an unsuccessful turnover of Fred Van Vleeta early, Jonas Zherebko came out in the transition for the lock, and from there everything was going. Just three minutes after Zherebko remained unguarded for three, the nurse was forced to call a time out. On the other hand, Anunobi threw open three before Clay Thompson found Kevon Loney with his forehead. To lead was up to four. Soon there will be two.
By the time Durant flipped over halfway through the quarter, the Golden State won minutes without him, 16–12. Leonard, on the floor for all of them, was carried out only by two free throws in this gap.
“We are young and immature. We always have a good relationship, and we cannot support them, ”said Green. “This is part of the growth. This is part of a mature group. Especially with so many young guys. Figuring each other, figuring out us, our identity.
But he was always going to go down to Durant against Leonard. There was no other way. With a little less than a shot remaining in the game, Riptors, leading by three, Durant climbed to the floor. Leonard was everywhere. He poured Durant's drive. He followed Durant behind the arc. When Durant stopped at three games, Leonard had one of his massive arms above the shooter's head, forcing a rainbow shot. But at such moments Durant does not miss.
“He took him to a corner, forcing him to completely lock up – and somehow the guy squeezed a shot,” said the nurse. "And hit right into the center."
It was an associated basketball game.
Overtime was a challenge. Be honest – do you think that predators are going to do this? Did you have faith? Or have you seen this story too many times before? If you had seen the Raptors coughing with great leadership, being forced to work overtime, and throwing a game that you would later say would definitely have to win?
“When such a team is drawn into overtime, because of some heavy blows or something else,” said the nurse, “many times this team will feel sorry for themselves, and not go out and play.
It was a discussion on the Raptors bench at the moments when overtime began. They needed to go out with energy. They need to believe in each other. They needed to believe in themselves.
“I told the guys,“ This is a good character test, ”said Green. “Continue to trust each other insultingly and defensively. Move the ball, find each other.
This is what the predators did. They scored four quick points for a couple of cloudy things, each of which was created by assistant Lowry. The warriors tied it up and had the opportunity to take the lead, but Leonard found a turn and found Lowry in the transition period. He found that the green lag. And the three-headed Green's pointer found the bottom of the grid.
“This is what I told them in the locker room – that I was proud of him for that,” said the Nurse. "To take an emotional punch in the intestines and take a few deep breaths at the end of the game, and go back and play overtime, as they did."
From there it was a matter of defense, possession, free throws and a final. The victory over the champion defender. The one that was undoubtedly deserved.
It was 131-128, predators.