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We’re only two games into the 2019 NBA Finals and the Toronto Raptors have already experienced the highs and lows of playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
After riding an electric crowd and hot shooting, the Raptors took Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors 118-109. But in Game 2 the Warriors showed why they are the two-time defending champions as they tied the series largely in part to a 18-0 run to start the third quarter.
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With the series heading back to California 1-1, all eyes are on the Raptors and how they will try to stop Golden State’s momentum at Oracle Arena.
While it won’t be an easy task, since the Warriors haven’t lost at home since the first round, there are ways for the Raptors to bounce back and retake the series lead.
Here are five things the Raptors need to do in order win Game 3.
1. Start strong in the first and third quarters
Despite the Raptors shaking off their Game 1 curse in the playoffs, they still have to work on how they start games and how they come out of halftime.
Through the first two games of the NBA Finals, the Raptors offence is noticeably different in the first and third quarters compared to the second and fourth quarters.
Raptors' offense through 2 games…
1st & 3rd quarters: 102 points on 104 possessions (0.98 per)
2nd & 4th quarters: 120 points on 94 possessions (1.28 per)
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) June 3, 2019
In their Game 1 victory, Toronto outscored Golden State in the first quarter and kept pace with the Warriors in the third quarter when their offence started to pick up.
While it’s promising to see the Raptors ability to play strong at the end of each half, in order to beat the Warriors, they need to come out strong so they don’t play from behind in Game 3.
2. Make open shots
The biggest way for the Raptors to start off strong in Game 3 is to make their open shots, particularly from the three-point line.
The Raptors’ offence is predicated on moving the ball effectively to get someone open from the beyond the arc. The problem is that despite getting many uncontested looks, they’ve been inconsistent at making those shots.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) June 3, 2019
If the Raptors can make around 40% of those shots like they’ve done in the past, they will be in a good place to beat the Warriors in Game 3. If not, it’s going to be a rough night.
3. Kyle Lowry needs to stay out of foul trouble
When it comes to drawing charging fouls, there is no one better in the league than Kyle Lowry.
But he can’t do that if he doesn’t stay in the game.
Lowry has been charged with 11 personal fouls through the first two games of the series, fouling out of Game 2 entirely.
Kyle Lowry has more offensive fouls drawn (25) than any player in a postseason since at least 2001, per https://t.co/ntQXeznJIE.
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) June 3, 2019
It’s no secret that Lowry is the heart and soul of the Raptors on both ends of the court. If he can be more disciplined and stay out of early foul trouble in Game 3, he will make a big impact on how the game plays out.
"Kyle Lowry has been very disappointing. Not only in this game but the last 3 games;16 fouls and he fouled out last night. Kyle Lowry has got to be better than that if the Raptors are going to win this series." — @criscarter80 pic.twitter.com/3mFj0PsrDw
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) June 3, 2019
4. Dominate the paint against Boogie
With Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney leaving Game 2 with injuries for the Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins emerged as an effective option to help take the pressure off Steph Curry.
— ESPN (@espn) June 3, 2019
In his first NBA Finals start, Cousins didn’t disappoint as he imposed his will in the paint on Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Cousins out-rebounded Gasol 10 to 6 and had the same amount of boards as Ibaka. His 11 points was more than both of Toronto’s big men who recorded six and seven points, respectively.
After returning from a torn quadricep injury, Cousins adds a new weapon in the Warriors’ arsenal and it’s up to Gasol and Ibaka to keep him from doing damage on Wednesday night.
5. Siakam needs to outshine Draymond
One of the most intriguing matchups so far in the NBA Finals as been Pascal Siakam versus Draymond Green.
Siakam dropped 32 points with Green as his primary defender during the opening game of the series, while in Game 2 the former defensive player of the year helped limit Siakam to 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
Siakam finished 0-for-6 with 1 point when guarded by Green in Game 2. He had 12 points on 5-for-8 with Draymond on him in Game 1.
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 3, 2019
As the Raptors’ second leading playoff scorer, Siakam has to be able to make his shots to prevent the Warriors defence from focusing on other players like Kawhi Leonard.
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