NBA

The Finals Stat, Game 2: Matchup adjustment stifles Toronto

By NBA.com Global on Jun 03, 2019 06:03 PM

FILE - OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 2: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors high fives fans as he heads to the locker room after the game against the Washington Wizards on April 2, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

TORONTO -- They ain't all gonna be pretty.

The Golden State Warriors survived two new injuries and a 5 1/2-minute stretch of scoreless basketball to escape with a 109-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of The Finals, punctuated by Andre Iguodala's dagger three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left.

The Warriors' backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 48 points and Draymond Green came one assist shy of recording his fourth straight triple-double. The Warriors assisted on 34 of their 38 field goals and evened the series at one game apiece.

One stat stood out from the rest as the Warriors grabbed home-court advantage as we head to Oakland for Games 3 and 4, with the champs now dealing with injuries to Kevin Durant (strained right calf), Thompson (left hamstring tightness) and Kevon Looney (left chest contusion).

The stat

12 -- Scoreless possessions for the Raptors to start the third quarter.

The context

The Warriors trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter, and it was an 11-point Toronto lead late in the half. But Golden State closed the period on a 9-3 run to make it a five-point game at the break.

What followed was one of those game-changing third quarters that has become a hallmark of these Warriors. This wasn't about their explosive offense, but rather a stifling defense that shut down Toronto for the first 5:38 of the second half.

It started with a matchup adjustment. Iguodala had been the primary defender on Kawhi Leonard through the first three halves of this series. But to open the third quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), it was Thompson defending Leonard, Iguodala checking Pascal Siakam, and Green on Kyle Lowry.

It's hard to argue with the results. On the Raptors' first possession of the third, they weren't able to get the ball to Leonard until there were just five seconds left on the shot clock, and he missed a contested three from the right wing.

On the next possession, Green helped off his man to deflect a Danny Green pass, one of five Toronto turnovers on their first nine possessions of the period.

On Toronto's third time with the ball in the third, DeMarcus Cousins cut off a Leonard pick-and-roll drive and Thompson came back to contest a stepback jumper. After the Raptors outscored the Warriors 28-12 in the paint in the first half, five of Toronto's first six shots of the third came from outside the paint.

They missed some open jumpers, but the Warriors made it a point to give the Raptors nothing easy on the inside. Both Iguodala and Cousins blocked Siakam in the post, and Thompson stripped Leonard on his way to the bucket.

In total, over those first 12 possessions of the third quarter, the Raptors shot 0-for-8 (with none of the eight shots coming in the restricted area) and committed five turnovers. By the time Fred VanVleet ended the drought on a corner three with 6:22 on the clock, the Warriors had turned a five-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Going back to the end of the second quarter, it was a 27-3 run.

The Raptors made things interesting with a late 10-0 run -- the Warriors' scoreless drought in the fourth was just a little shorter (5:33) than that of the Raptors in the third (5:38) -- but never had a shot to tie or take the lead after the game turned early in the second half.

Like they did last year, the Warriors ranked 11th defensively in the regular season. But they also had the No. 1 defense in the playoffs, allowing just 101.8 points per 100 possessions as they won their second straight championship.

After Game 1 on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the Warriors ranked 10th defensively in this postseason, having allowed 110.8 points per 100 possessions. They suffered some slippage and just weren't the same defensive team as they had been during their championship runs.

Maybe it was a sign that this is the year that their dynasty comes to an end. Or maybe they just needed some adversity before they flipped the switch. And maybe the idea of a 2-0 deficit in The Finals was just enough to do it.

The first 5 1/2 minutes of the third quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) were game-changing, and perhaps series-changing. It started with a matchup adjustment (preliminary matchup data from Second Spectrum has the Raptors scoring just 15 points on the 25 possessions that Thompson defended Leonard) and it continued with a little more effort.

In these playoffs, the Warriors are now 5-4 after trailing by double-digits and 13-0 when they've allowed fewer than 115.5 points per 100 possessions. When they've defended to some degree of success, they've won.

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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