The Toronto Raptors came into this series with not many thinking they could win. The prevailing thought many analysts and fans of basketball had was the Warriors would still be able to overpower the Toronto until Kevin Durant would come back and the Warriors would win the series. Well, other than the fact that Kevin Durant has not played in a game this series, the Raptors have equipped themselves well, winning three of the first four games and giving themselves a chance to close out the series on their home court. While that sounds exciting, you still have to knock out the champs and that isn't going to be easy to do. So with that being said, what things are going to be important to the Raptors winning this series in five games in front of their home crowd.
One huge thing the Raptors need to do is value the basketball. They have done well doing that the entire series so far, with their high for the series being only 15 turnovers so far. If they are able to stay on around 15 or lower, they will be able to limit the amount of possessions the Warriors have and that would give Golden State less chances to score the basketball. Along with the turnovers being low, the Raptors also need to make sure to limit the live-ball turnovers. The live-ball turnovers, for those that aren't familiar, are the ones that lead directly to fastbreak buckets. With the Warriors, those fastbreak buckets are lethal and can really get them going offensively. And if Kevin Durant is playing tonight, then the Warriors can be even more lethal. With the Warriors, you have to keep them in the halfcourt at least to limit the amount of points they are able to put up and also to make them work harder against a set defense.
The Warriors have been easier to defend this series so far because of Kevin Durant not being around, but with desperation, they will be coming with all they have. And with them coming with all they have, the Warriors could put the Hamptons Five lineup out there on the court if Durant plays. With that lineup that consists of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant, the Warriors can be lethal pushing the tempo because everyone can take it off the backboard and get the ball up the court quickly. And what makes it even more effective is Green's ability to pass the ball and push the tempo from the center position. If Durant plays and they put this lineup on the floor, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has a decision to make. He could stay big at center with Mark Gasol and Serge Ibaka or he could choose to go small. That small lineup would put Pascal Siakam at the center positon to match up with Green and Kawhi Leonard at the power forward spot to match up with Kevin Durant. And to complete the smaller lineup, the Raptors could have a combination of Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green or Norman Powell in the other three spots. That's a decision Nurse will have to make should Durant play.
If Durant does not play, then the Warriors offense becomes a little easier to defend. The offense for the Warriors then becomes one that is predicated on ball movement and screens. The Warriors would undoubtedly go with a traditional lineup at that point and the big thing would be for the Raptors to guard the three-point line. Thompson and Curry can take over a game when they get hot and that could have the Warriors going back to Oracle Arena with confidence and also more time for Durant to rest. Leaving Curry and Thompson would not be smart to do. Along with not leaving the shooters, the Raptors also need to clean the boards. The Warriors can stay in the game with easy buckets and the Raptors did have moments in Game 2 where they did not block out. The result was the Warriors winning. Gasol and Siakam will be huge in cleaning the boards along with Serge Ibaka when he comes in the game.
The Raptors are on the edge of history, but they will need to finish the defending champions off. Will they or won't they is the question that lies ahead at this point. We shall see tonight.