Raptors roll past Warriors in Game 1 of NBA Finals
TORONTO — No Kevin Durant. Problem.
The Warriors’ air of invincibility got crushed in Canada in the first-ever NBA Finals game north of the border, as the Raptors gritted their way behind Pascal Siakam to a commanding 118-109 Game 1 victory Thursday night at rocking Scotiabank Arena.
Golden State’s Durant-less offense looked flat and as devalued as the Canadian dollar. The Warriors shot 42.8 percent and committed 17 turnovers.
Stephen Curry came on too late. He finished with a padded 34 points in an 8-of-18, three-turnover outing with Fred VanVleet making it tough for him. Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson was nearly as bad, bricking it at an 8-of-17 pace, and Draymond Green struggled from the field despite a triple-double — almost a quadruple-double with his six turnovers.
“We’re down 0-1 — it’s not the end of the world,’’ Curry said. “We’ve proven our resiliency.’’
Before Game 1, Curry boastfully stated the Warriors had “an edge’’ rolling into the Finals against a new opponent — likely a reference to not having to deal with LeBron James.
But they had to deal with Siakam, the Cameroon native and the league’s leading candidate for Most Improved Player who took over Game 1, finishing with 32 points on 14-of-17 from the field. He overshadowed Kawhi Leonard, whose 23 points came on 5-of-14 shooting from the field.
“Siakam was brilliant, hitting shots from everywhere,’’ a terse Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Twenty-four years after the Raptors were founded, they are three wins away from their first NBA title. Before tipoff, Kerr said it would be “probably a long series,’’ and he looks correct. Game 2 is here Sunday.
Asked about how Durant could have helped, Kerr said, “It doesn’t matter until he’s out there. If he’s out there it’s pretty good. If he’s not, we play with guys we have. We got enough. We had won six straight.’’
The Warriors fell to 31-2 with Durant sidelined and Curry in the lineup. Durant is out indefinitely with a partially torn calf muscle.
“KD’s an all-time great player on both ends, so I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster,’’ Curry said. “We obviously have proven that when he’s out we have guys that can step up and that’s going to be the case until he gets back.’’
Raptors superfan Drake wore a Dell Curry Raptors jersey to razz the son who lived in Toronto when his father played here from 1999-2002.
Siakam, killing it in transition, notched 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting in the first three quarters as the Raptors took an 88-81 lead into the final period.
“He played with great composure,’’ Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Green blamed himself for the Siakam frenzy.
“I let him get in a rhythm in the first half,’’ Green said.
Siakam put the Raps up nine with 8:39 left on a driving banker over a double-team, puncturing Golden State’s comeback spirit. Thompson called Siakam’s performance “the game of his playoff life.’’
“I was getting buckets in transition — something I haven’t done in the playoffs,’’ Siakam said.
The dynasty from the Bay had fallen behind Portland double-digits three straight games before rallying to win in the Western Conference finals. But the Warriors were no longer in the Rose City and faced a thornier foe.
“Their defense was great,’’ Kerr said. “It wasn’t our best night. We got outplayed. The biggest thing was our transition defense was awful. That’s the No. 1 priority when you play Toronto.’’
Kerr added that entering the series “we didn’t know this team very well.’’ Golden State played the Raptors twice but Leonard missed one of those games, Kerr noted.
With 5:08 left, Thompson’s frustration boiled over. He picked up a loose-ball shoving foul and railed at the referee, picking up a technical foul.
The Raptors, in their first-ever Finals, grabbed a 59-49 lead at halftime, showing no nervousness. In his first year as coach, Nurse’s club held Golden State to 35 percent shooting and forced 10 turnovers in the half.
The atmosphere was electric — “O, Canada’’ never sounding as sweet. The Raptors gathered up seven of their alumni for the milestone night as the fans roared when those former players were introduced. The club even trotted out Charles Oakley, whom the Knicks traded to the Raptors for Marcus Camby 20 years ago.
Green, who entered Game 1 on a serious roll, was mostly a non-factor. With 59.9 seconds left in the second quarter, Kyle Lowry drew a charge on Green, giving him three fouls. Long Island’s Danny Green (11 points, 3-of-7 on 3-pointers) hit a monster, contested corner 3 over Thompson with five seconds left to give Toronto its biggest lead of the half at 12.
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