The Golden State Warriors are used to seizing control of a playoff series and then squeezing the life out of their opponents.
That strategy worked in the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers and in previous years when they took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but Steve Kerr and his players are going to have to change their game plan against the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto picked up a series-opening 118-109 win in Game 1 and also dictated the pace throughout. The Raptors seemed to come through with key shots whenever they needed them, and the Warriors had to react to Toronto's offensive surges.
Pascal Siakam (32 PTS, 14-17 FGM - 82.4%) is the 7th player in #NBAFinals history to score 30+ points on 80% shooting or better. The only other players to accomplish this feat are: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar James Worthy Adrian Dantley Michael Jordan Toni Kukoc Shaquille O'Neal https://t.co/LeC2u20SUd
Instead of superstar Kawhi Leonard coming up with the big baskets, it was forward Pascal Siakam who came up with the dominating effort for the Raptors. Siakam scored 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting, and he also contributed eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
Leonard was one of several key contributors, as he had 23 points, Marc Gasol scored 20 points and Fred VanVleet added 15 points.
The Warriors were somewhat limited in their offensive options in the opener. Stephen Curry was their high scorer with 34 points and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson had 21 points, but the Warriors struggled to find offense outside of those two stars.
The absence of Kevin Durant (calf sprain) did not hurt them in the final two games of their second-round series against the Houston Rockets or their sweep of the Blazers, but it was an obvious shortcoming in Game 1 against Toronto.
Durant is not playing in Game 2, and the Warriors will need to find some additional offense if they are going to avoid going down 0-2 in the series. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala would seem to be the most likely contributors, but Kerr can also look to Kevon Looney, Shaun Livingston or perhaps DeMarcus Cousins for a jolt of offense.
Handicappers will have a number of prop bets they can wager on in Game 2.
One of the props that draws interest is whether either team will lead by more than 16 points at any point in the game. That prop from Sportsbook.ag is listed at odds of -115 for either the over or under option. A bettor needs to risk $115 to win $100 on that prop.
Even though the Warriors could not match the Raptors in Game 1, they should be more focused in Game 2. Look for the Warriors to fall behind in the first half and mount a strong comeback in the second. The deficit could easily be 10 points or more in the first half, but it won't be as high as 16. Take the under in that prop option.
When it comes to player props, Curry's total points over/under is 32.5. Since he had 34 in the Game 1 loss and Durant will not be available, look for Curry to meet or exceed his Game 1 point total. He is not going to back down in Game 2, and he could rocket past that mark if he gets off to a sharp start. Even if he doesn't, the Warriors will look in his direction in the fourth quarter.
The other player option to consider is Siakam's point total. He had a signature performance in Game 1, but it's difficult to see him coming close to his spectacular shooting effort here. His total is listed at 19.5 points, and the bet here is on the under at -115. Siakam may have a huge influence on the game with his defense, rebounding and blocked shots, but he will not score 20 points or more in Game 2.
The Raptors are two-point favorites in Game 2, with the total listed at 213.5, per VegasInsider.com.
Toronto played a strong and impressive game in beating the Warriors in the opener and taking the lead in the series.
The belief here is that the Raptors are a strong enough team to keep their composure and play an impressive game as they try to build a 2-0 lead. They have enough depth and talent that they are not likely to succumb to the pressure of playing in the NBA Finals.
The Raptors should be able to play the Warriors on fairly even terms. However, the Warriors are the experienced team when it comes to competing in the championship series. They realize how vital it is to go back to Oracle Arena with a 1-1 tie, and they will find a way to win the game.
Take the Warriors plus-two, and look for the under to come through as well.
Final score: Golden State 108, Toronto 104.