So, the Raptors turned all their attention to Stephen Curry.
Toronto played a box-and-one defense late in Game 2 last night. The scheme is usually reserved for youth games, where one player can be highly talented and his teammates can lack fundamental skills. By high school, it often seems obsolete.
Yet, the Raptors turned to the defense in the NBA Finals.
And it kind of worked. Toronto mounted a late comeback as the Warriors offense faltered. It wasn’t totally because of the box-and-one. Golden State got decent looks that probably would have generated better efficiency over a larger sample. But the change of pace contributed to the Warriors getting out of rhythm.
That set the stage for Golden State’s final meaningful possession.
Though they were no longer playing a box-and-one, the Raptors left Iguodala wide open for the dagger 3-pointer in a 109-104 loss.
“They were playing some janky defense,” Curry said in his on-court TV interview, “just trying to send bodies to me everywhere. And our whole roster just took advantage of it. Over the course of the game, that’s kind of disrespectful to leave Andre Iguodala open like that with the game on the line. He’s made big shots like that before.”
Said Toronto coach Nick Nurse: “We weren’t disrespecting anybody.”
The Warriors got the ball up two with 26.9 seconds left.
“That’s a definite foul situation, right?” Nurse said. “They could hold it all the way to the end, throw it up there, hit the rim and the horn’s going to go off. I’ve been in that situation before. So usually under 28 – if there’s 28 or more you’re going to play solid defense. If it’s 27.9 or under, you’re not. We’re trying to foul.”
Nurse noted the Raptors missed opportunities to foul Draymond Green (69% on free throws this season), Shaun Livingston (78%) and Green again. When Curry (92%) got the ball, the plan shifted to trapping.
Curry floated a dangerous pass that Kawhi Leonard – who’s long, strong and blessed with huge hands – nearly snagged. But, in one of the game’s most unsung plays, Shaun Livingston beat Leonard to the ball.
“We all got to joke amongst us of bad receivers and good receivers,” Draymond Green said. “I always call Kevin a bad receiver. I always call Shaun a bad receiver. He turned into a Megatron tonight for that pass.”
Livingston kicked it to Iguodala, who had plenty of time to load up and sink the shot.
“If they’re going to take a shot and give you a chance there, I’m going to probably live with the one that ended up being taken,” Nurse said. “I’m going to probably roll with that.
“I would like to go back and try that again about ten times, and see if one of them doesn’t go our way.”
Was that disrespectful? Maybe – and maybe reasonably so. Iguodala shot 0-for-11 on 3-pointers in his previous four games, dating back to the start of the Western Conference finals. He converted just 33% during the regular season.
But don’t forget, Nurse didn’t want anyone to take that shot. He wanted to foul. The Raptors didn’t execute the coach’s preferred strategy.
Kawhi Leonard best explained what actually happened on the floor when asked whether he wanted the ball in Iguodala’s hands in that situation.
“No,” Leonard said. “We wanted to see it in our hands. No, we wanted to get a steal.”