Stephen Curry's 23 Lead Warriors Past Kawhi Leonard, Raptors to Even Series at 1

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2019

TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 2: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball against the Toronto Raptors during Game Two of the NBA Finals on June 2, 2019 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are back in control of the NBA Finals after evening the series at 1-1.

Klay Thompson scored 25 points to lead Golden State to a 109-104 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 Sunday. Stephen Curry added 23 points and three steals in the road win at Scotiabank Arena, giving the Warriors the opportunity to win it all if they hold serve at home.

Toronto had stormed back with a 10-0 run over the final five minutes to cut the deficit to two, but Andre Iguodala sealed the victory with a three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Andre Iguodala Game 2 dagger 🤫 Series tied at 1-1 https://t.co/b3sfvOPA1A

Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 34 points, but the Raptors still saw their five-game win streak come to an end. The squad had won six straight home games and had a lot of momentum after Game 1, but the series is all square after the latest result.


Warriors Are Still The Better Team Even Without KD

After Game 1, the narrative quickly shifted from the Warriors being better without Kevin Durant to questions about whether they could win a title without a healthy version of the forward. 

Game 2 didn't prove either correct but instead showed this is still an elite squad when its best players are clicking.

Klay Thompson was unguardable for much of the night, scoring the team's first nine points before finishing the half with 18:


Klay Thompson leads all scorers at the break of Game 2 with 18 PTS, 3-3 3PM! #StrengthInNumbers #NBAFinals presented by @YouTubeTV on ABC & TSN https://t.co/sTkScuf6Jj

He ended the night with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point range before leaving with hamstring tightness. The injury remains worth monitoring, but he showed he is still a game-changing player when healthy.

Even in a quiet game, Curry also had some big moments and is now averaging 33.7 points in seven appearances without Durant.

The frontcourt was miles better in Game 2 than Game 1, as Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins clearly outplayed Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol:

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

This game has Draymond Green's fingerprints all over it. He's everywhere the Dubs have needed him to be & everywhere else the Raptors don't expect him to be

Brian Geltzeiler @hoopscritic

Can’t say enough about Cousins tonight. Been a physical force. Imposed some will on this game

Green finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, leaving him one dime short of his fourth straight triple-double. Cousins got the start for the first time since his quad injury and made a huge impact with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.

Of course, the biggest difference was the way the team played together.

The Warriors finished with 34 assists on 38 made field goals, including all 22 makes in the second half, per Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports. This passing ability was especially obvious during the 18-0 run at the start of the third quarter that completely changed the game:


The @warriors go on top with a 18-0 burst to open the 2nd half! #StrengthInNumbers 78 #WeTheNorth 67 🇺🇸: ABC 🇨🇦: TSN https://t.co/2Ja1RN2RvY

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Most impressive part of this Warriors run is they're not killing Toronto with one of those classic shooting displays from Steph or Klay. Almost everything is at the rim or in the paint. Layup. Layup. Dunk. Floater. Layup. Slicing up that D.

Even with the injuries, the Warriors feature a lot of chemistry, which allows this team to dominate on both ends.

The night ended with Iguodala, who once again made a clutch shot to help seal a win for the Warriors. He showed this team has too many reliable options for any opponent, even with multiple All-Stars on the sidelines in the closing minutes.

The Raptors can still win this series with or without Durant on the court, but the Warriors should remain favored because they are simply the better team.


Kawhi Needs More Help For Raptors to Win Finals

We already knew what Kawhi Leonard could do on the court, but this postseason has allowed him to reintroduce himself as one of the best players in the NBA.

He entered Sunday night averaging 30.7 points in the playoffs, and he kept it up in Game 2, finishing with 34 points and 14 rebounds.

Golden State did a good job forcing difficult shots, holding the All-Star to just 2-of-9 from three-point range. However, Leonard was still able to get his points, sometimes just by bullying his way to the basket:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Shake 'N Bake (via @Raptors) https://t.co/DsFyZOGZVr

Toronto Raptors @Raptors

31 & 7 for the KLaw https://t.co/PMMtM5AnqN

Tim Reynolds @ByTimReynolds

Kawhi is not of our Earth.

These type of plays allowed him to score over 30 points for the 12th time in 20 postseason appearances.

Unfortunately, it will take more than that to beat the Warriors four times.

Toronto won Game 1 because the rest of the team was able to step up with some big performances. Siakam stood out with 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting, but Gasol, Fred VanVleet and others were also at their best. The team shot 50.6 percent from the field last game despite Leonard's 5-of-14 performance.

VanVleet was a spark plug off the bench with some big plays on both ends:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

VanVleet picked Steph's pockets. https://t.co/5s0yVJNwQe

Still, he needed 17 shots to get his 17 points and struggled from the outside. Siakam also had a rough game with 12 points of 5-of-18 from the field. Gasol and Danny Green were nearly invisible in the game, and the Raptors combined to shoot 28.9 percent from three-point range.

It doesn't matter how well Leonard plays when the rest of the team can't hold up its end of the bargain.

Considering the forward missed about a quarter of the regular season, we know this is far from a one-man team. The Raptors have outstanding depth and know how to play team defense as well as anyone in the NBA.

Those strengths were just nowhere to be found in Game 2, especially during the second half.

If Toronto is going to win three more games, it likely won't be because Leonard is scoring 40 or 50 points. It will be because Siakam is taking advantage of mismatches, Kyle Lowry is running the offense and Green is knocking down three-pointers.

Otherwise, Game 1 will end up being the high point of this series.


What's Next?

The series now shifts to Oakland, with Game 3 set for Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET at Oracle Arena.