8:05 PM EST
Raptors ML -125 (5u)
In the Game 1 writeup I said the whole talk of KD “not mattering” for the Warriors was ridiculous talk and how this series would be the first one where Durant’s absence would be missed. That came to fruition as the Raptors won Game 1 essentially wire to wire in a game that was never really in doubt. The reason for this is because without Durant on the floor the Warriors run a far different offensive set where Curry runs around the perimeter and they use that motion to get him and their other shooters open. The Warriors were able to do this effectively against Houston and Portland because those two teams don’t have the physical defensive personnel to knock Curry around and disrupt him. Toronto on the other hand is a totally different animal. They have elite defenders eight deep and they are really good at bumping the hell out of people and using their length and athleticism to disrupt the opponents flow on offense. Typically when teams do that to the Warriors they just rely on Durant’s isolation which is virtually unstoppable. As the Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser said, “People don’t stop him, he either misses or makes shots. But the defense usually has very little to do with it. He’s too good.”
Without Durant, the Raptors matchup perfectly against the Warriors — they have the perfect compliment of defenders (which is only going to be strengthened further with the return of OG Anunoby tonight) to throw at the Warriors and there really aren’t any mismatches that the Warriors can exploit. When Durant is on the floor he can just go into an isolation set and either hit a contested jumper in your face or drive to the rim and get the foul call and kill you at the line, but obviously the Warriors won’t have that luxury tonight. And in the playoffs — the finals in particular — the refs, especially certain crews, do not call physicality and will let the Raptors play their style of defense which is rough and physical where they get very aggressive with smaller guards on the perimeter. The Raptors are very, very smart at knowing this and are excellent at making adjustments to knowing what the refs will give them.
The reason I mention this is because the crew tonight, being lead by Tony Brothers, is one of the crews that allows for a ton of physical contact — especially on the perimeter. I was waiting for Tony Brothers to ref a game in this series to make it a large play and we were lucky enough to get it in a home game to boot. The Raptors have the physical defenders in Gasol, Ibaka, Lowry, Green and Leonard who play rough physical defense and have the veteran savvy to know what the refs will let them get away with on defense tonight. While I am not a ref conspiracy theorist by any means, the fact is the Raptors are 15-1 in their last 16 overall with Tony Brothers as the head ref. It just goes to show they are very smart in knowing what the refs will allow and how to push the envelope and take advantage. In fact, the last time they had this crew was in Game 5 against the Bucks where they held the Bucks to their playoff low of 99 points. The proof is in the pudding.
This is the worst case scenario for the Warriors tonight. Curry and Thompson will certainly get theirs, but last game Curry had 34 points but only four three pointers, 14 of those came from the line and I will be shocked if he gets that many calls tonight. With this referree crew the Raptors will be able to physically manhandle Curry and Thompson and get away with it and it’s not like the Warriors have any bigs that can be effective in this series. The Warriors are really going to miss Durant and if he ends up sitting the whole series out I will put myself on record saying there is no way the Warriors are winning any road games this series.
Obviously it is unlikely that Siakam matches his level of production from the other night but the Raptors role players have really stepped huge ever since being a no show in the Sixers series. That said, there are plenty of other players who didn’t play well, Kawhi in particular, who will very likely rise to the occasion tonight. Game 1 was a statement game but with Durant’s return looking imminent, the Raptors know this is a must win tonight and I think they get it done in spades. Even though we took money line to be safe, I look for this to be a double digit win and there is value on the alternate line of Raptors -6.5 +175 as well. Take the Raptors.