Maybe it was the rust. Maybe it was the Raptors.
Either way, Golden State’s offense was not at its usual high-octane level on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — and for the first time in a long time, the Warriors are facing a 1-0 deficit in a playoff series.
The Warriors shot 44 percent, turned the ball over 17 times and fell to the Toronto Raptors 118-109 in the series opener. The loss ended a run of 12 straight Game 1 wins for Golden State, going back to the opener of the 2015 Western Conference finals — as well as a run of five consecutive wins in Game 1 of an NBA Finals, going back to 1975.
“Their defense was great and it wasn’t our best night,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But we just got outplayed, so, simple as that. Move on to the next one.”
The next one is Sunday night in Toronto.
Golden State was playing for the first time in 10 days, and trailed for nearly 43 of the game’s 48 minutes. The Warriors trailed by 10 at the half, marking the fourth consecutive game where Golden State faced a double-digit deficit at some point.
In the last three of those contests, Golden State rallied to beat Portland.
The Trail Blazers missed some opportunities. The Raptors wouldn’t let this one slip away.
“You try not to have any droughts on offense, because you know their ability to score quick,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 16 field goals; the rest of the Warriors combined for only 18. Draymond Green, who did have a triple-double, shot 2 for 9. Andre Iguodala was 3 for 7, missing all four of his tries from 3-point range.
“Give their defense credit,” Thompson said. “We didn’t get too many transition opportunities and we’re at our best when we’re running and playing with the time of randomness that kind of has teams scrambling. And it was there a little bit tonight. But like I said before, our goal was to get one (game in Toronto), so we got some tape now and we’ll go to the drawing board and we’ll come back and be much better on Sunday.”
This is a matchup of offense vs. defense, the freewheeling Warriors against a Toronto team that has now peeled off five consecutive wins since falling behind Milwaukee 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals. The Raptors turned that series around by clamping down at the defensive end, particularly against Bucks star and likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This time, it was against everyone.
Through the first 41 minutes, the Warriors were shooting 38 percent. They shot 8 for 10 to end the game, a flurry that made the overall shooting number look respectable but ultimately was in vain. By the time they got hot, the Raptors were nursing a double-digit lead and never teetered on the brink of collapse in the final minutes.
“The bad is we’re down 0-1,” Curry said. “But it’s not the end of the world. … Our confidence remains the same. Block out all the noise about how it’s our first this and that, kind of the doubt around our team. Come out and play hard, get Game 2 and take it from there. I say it a lot, but I like the vibe we had in the locker room.”
Golden State’s two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP in Kevin Durant isn’t expected back for Game 2, either. The Warriors have said he won’t play until he can return to a full-fledged practice, and earlier Thursday coach Steve Kerr said it was unlikely that Durant participates in a practice before the team heads home to the Bay Area to prepare for Game 3 on Wednesday night.
So if something is going to change on Sunday when the finals resume, it won’t be with Durant aiding the cause.
“I know we’ll respond like the champions we are,” Thompson said.
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