After the Warriors’ crushing 118-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, analysts are wondering what could have prompted what is viewed by some as a stunning outcome. While there were obviously a multitude of factors that contributed to the defeat, the first does not require looking past the final score.

Golden State losing when the team scores under 110 points has been a common denominator throughout the season. Out of the 40 Warriors’ losses (both regular season and playoffs), 28 of those occurred when the Warriors did not reach the 110-point threshold. For a team that shows very few outward weaknesses, this number stands out even greater.

In wins, the Warriors average around 122 points per game. In losses, that number drops all the way to 106 (NBA Stats).

Toronto’s normal game plan is — whether intentional or not — to take away possessions for teams through their methodical, isolation-heavy offense. With Kawhi Leonard establishing himself as one of the most efficient scorers in playoff history in 2019, this allows Toronto to slow the game down and allow the Raptors’ elite defense to face even fewer possessions.

Golden State’s success is predicated on freedom and a fast pace. The ability of the Warriors to have more chances at getting their shooters hot has been a key to the dynasty’s success. However, this reduction of opportunity makes it tough for their secondary cogs to get in rhythm.

So, how can Golden State push the game’s tempo back in its favor? The Warriors’ most common foil, using forward Draymond Green as a fast-break initiator, was mostly stifled in Game 1 as Nick Nurse made sure to send a defender flying back (usually Siakam) to disrupt this initial push.

Additionally, with Andre Iguodala ineffective as the secondary shooting option on the fast break, Green was forced to either create a shot for himself (never his strongest suit) or reset to the half-court offense.

If Iguodala could regain his shooting stroke, something that is not terribly difficult for a player shooting 34.5% from three in the postseason, the Warriors could get shots up more quickly. And if Iguodala continues his shooting struggles, turning to Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie or Jonas Jerebko might provide a nice spark for Golden State.

Whether Golden State chooses to make the aforementioned adjustments or something completely different, they must implement something quickly. They’d really have their work cut out for them facing an 0-2 deficit. And for a team already missing its two-time Finals MVP in Durant, a second straight loss could prove to be the final blow.



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