Game 2 Raptors Starting Lineup Breakdown – Go Here
Note: This is the Game 1 Breakdown
Toronto Raptors will carry home court advantage into the playoffs, after winning 58 games in the regular season. They also were 32-9 at home. Unlike Golden State, Toronto comes into the NBA Finals fully healthy. They have also brought a pretty consistent starting lineup. The Raptors beat Golden State both times in the regular season, but hard to take that into consideration. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green missed one game, and Kawhi Leonard missed the other. We saw Golden State take the regular season a bit lightly this year, as they also dealt with some inner turmoil. Either way, Toronto marched through Philadelphia and Milwaukee over the last two rounds. With Durant likely out the first two games and more, the home court advantage, Toronto has a lot on their side. They rank second in defensive rating this postseason, and are also last in pace.
The Rise Of Nick Nurse
After the firing of Dwayne Casey, Toronto promoted Nick Nurse. He was an assistant from 2013-2018. Nurse has taken this Raptors squad to their first NBA Finals. It was a quality run for Nurse and Toronto, but facing Golden State and Steve Kerr is a different animal. After dealing with Giannis Antentokounmpo and the 76ers, Nurse will have his hands full with the backcourt of Golden State. Luckily he has tremendous defenders across the floor, which will help him out. While Nurse looks like a TV sitcom dad, he has made the right moves to get Toronto over the hump. Nurse putting Serge Ibaka at the five helped him out tremendously, and Pascal Siakam’s improvement can be tied to being under Nurse.
Nurse has a similar personality to Steve Kerr on the court. His calm nature shows on the sidelines, and it transfers over to his team. The Raptors have more depth in their bench, and Nurse hasn’t been shy with riding the hot hand. We saw Norman Powell jump into a higher role during that Milwaukee series, which sparked them over the last few games. With Nurse being with this core over the last five years, the transition has gone fairly smooth.
Raptors Starting Lineup
Kyle Lowry, PG – Living in the shadow of struggling in the playoffs, Kyle Lowry broke out in the Milwaukee series. Lowry may not be the lead dog on the team, but a lot of what he does won’t show up in the boxscore. He is excellent at drawing chargers, and his loose ball effort is phenomenal. Lowry also shot really well in the fourth quarter of this last series. He will have a tough draw against a good backcourt defense, but also will have to exert energy on both ends of the court.
Danny Green, SG – This is likely going to be the most expendable position to rotate for Nurse, and it has been throughout the playoffs. Green has struggled with his shot all postseason, shooting just 32% from the field. This was partially why we saw Norman Powell come into the mix more often down the stretch. Green is averaging 29 minutes per game in the playoffs, averaging just 6.8 points per game. That isn’t going to cut it, and the backup guards will be ready to take over if this play continues for Green.
Kawhi Leonard, SF – Leading everyone remaining in points, Kawhi Leonard is on pace to be one of the top scorers in playoff history for a single postseason. Offensively and defensively, Leonard has been as advertised. He will meet another Goliath, and will need balance his energy on both sides of the ball. This is going to be a tough task defending Golden State. However, it gets easier with Kevin Durant off the court. Leonard has 69 assists in the playoffs, and has distrubuted the ball nicely as the focal player of the offense.
Pascal Siakam, PF – Likely heading for a most improved award, Pascal Siakam has started to slip as the playoffs go on. This is a concern, where it could be fatigue issue, or Milwaukee phased him out. Siakam shot 55% in the regular season, and 37% from three. He is shooting 45% from the field, and 28% from three in the playoffs. Around the rim, Siakam has dropped off quite a bit. Dealing with Draymond Green isn’t going to be a fun task for him, yet it is hard to see anyone being able to fill in for him if struggles continue.
Marc Gasol, C – Talking about x-factors in the postseason, Marc Gasol can certainly be one. With Cousins likely getting minutes in this series, Gasol will be asked to slow the big man down. He has already done a great job of limiting high usage bigs in the past, and did so during his days in Memphis seeing Cousins more regularly. If Cousins isn’t a factor, Gasol will be able to play more his game, and be a factor on the offensive end. In the last four games beating Milwaukee, Gasol was a positive in the plus/minus category.
The Raptors have had a solid bench over the last few seasons, which has translated into taking the pressure off the starters at times. In these playoffs, Leonard, Siakam, and Lowry have played an insane amount of minutes. We have seen the bench takeover mainly for Gasol, Green, and Siakam at times. Fred VanVleet has flashed potential on the defensive side, but also has gone hiding at times. VanVleet really figured it out over the Milwaukee series. He was +12, +28, and +25 in the last three games. Norman Powell has a TS% of 59% in the postseason, and he subbed in for Green quite a bit giving them a spark off the bench. Despite the Toronto defense holding teams, the Raptors are going to need offense in this series. Powell is one name off the bench to give it to them.
Serge Ibaka is the final bench piece for Toronto, who will play both the four and the five at times during this series. He is playing right around 20 minutes a night in the postseason, and his production has been sporadic. Ibaka still brings a strong presence on the glass, owning the third highest Reb% in the postseason. Ibaka also joins VanVleet, Powell, and Gasol for being top ten in defensive rating. It will be a battle against Thompson, Curry, and Green who are in the top five in offensive rating.