In taking Game 4, the Raptors return to Toronto with a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors, pushing the two-time defending champions to the brink of elimination.
GAME 4: Takeaways | Grades | Player reactions | Sights and sounds
Will the Raptors close the series out on their homecourt or will the Warriors keep their season alive by forcing a Game 6 at Oracle Arena? Here are four things to watch in Game 5...
Golden State's turnovers
Turnovers were a massive problem for the Warriors in Game 4. They committed 17 in the game, which the Raptors turned into 14 points.
The Warriors were at their sloppiest in the first quarter, when they coughed the ball up six times. It helped keep the Raptors in the game even though they had the least efficient quarter of the series for either team. While Kawhi Leonard had it going with 14 early points, everyone else on the Raptors scored three points on 1-for-13 shooting from the field, the combination of which led to a miserable 0.68 points per possession.
The Raptors deserve a ton of credit for how they've hounded the Warriors all series long, but some of Golden State's turnovers were simply careless. DeMarcus Cousins was at the centre of it all, as he turned the ball over three times in five first-quarter minutes.
The Warriors have always turned the ball over at a high rate - their care-free style of play is part of their DNA - but the Raptors were among the league leaders in points off of turnovers this season. If they don't take better care of the ball, they're going to have a tough time mounting a comeback against this team.
The free throw battle
In addition to Golden State's turnovers, a big reason why the Raptors were able to keep themselves in the game is because they got to the free throw line. They went 10-for-11 in the first half compared to only 2-for-4 for the Warriors. Kyle Lowry was 4-for-4, and Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol each knocked down a pair of free throws.
"I think the turnovers hurt us," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said post-game. "We probably played well enough in the first half to be up eight or 10, but that's not abnormal in the NBA. They stayed in the game with their free throws in the first half. I think they made 10 to our two, and that kept it close while they were struggling offensively."
The Raptors and Warriors are getting to the free throw line at basically the same rate in the series, but Toronto is taking better advantage of those opportunities. According to Justin Kubatko of StatMuse, the Raptors have the highest free-throw percentage through four games of an NBA Finals series, at 90.3%.
The gap between them and the team in second place - last season's Warriors, who swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals - is pretty large, too.
Highest free-throw percentage by a team through the first four games of an NBA Finals:- Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) June 8, 2019
90.3 - Toronto, 2019
85.5 - Golden State, 2018
85.2 - Seattle, 1996
84.4 - Chicago, 1991
84.2 - Indiana, 2000
Leonard has been the main reason for Toronto's success from the free throw line this postseason. After going 9-for-9 in Game 4, he's now 178-for-200 (89.0%) from the free throw line in the playoffs. According to Basketball Reference, the only player in NBA history to shoot a better percentage of that sort of volume from the charity stripe in a playoff run is Dirk Nowitzki, who went 205-229 (89.5%) in 2006.
When the going gets rough, it certainly helps having someone like Leonard who can get to the free throw line almost at will.
Will Stephen Curry bounce back?
Curry came back down to earth following a historic Game 3. In 42 minutes of play, he scored 27 points in Game 4 on 9-for-22 shooting from the field and 2-for-9 from the 3-point line.
Fred VanVleet was once again Toronto's primary defender on Curry. According to NBA.com, VanVleet guarded the two-time MVP for 31 possessions, limiting him to six points on 2-for-8 shooting. Curry is now shooting 30.8% against VanVleet in the series.
Despite all of those numbers, Curry said after Game 4 that he was happy with the looks that he got and that he missed shots he usually makes.
"They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay [Thompson]," Curry said post-game. "I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the 3-point line, but overall I feel like I got good looks.
"Obviously I'm sure they were a little bit more focused on us two considering how Game 3 went and having a great game plan. I'll still look at the film and figure out how I can make the right decisions with the ball in my hands and be aggressive and assertive, and make those adjustments for Game 5."
The Warriors are holding out hope that Kevin Durant will return for Game 5, but if he's unable to play, the Warriors will likely need Curry to be at his best to have any chance of extending and winning this series. Without Durant, they simply don't have the depth to overcome multiple off nights from Curry, even when Klay Thompson has it going like he did in Game 4.
The supporting casts
Fred VanVleet has carried Toronto's second unit for most of these Finals, but it was Serge Ibaka who made the greatest impact off the bench in Game 4.
Ibaka was Toronto's second-leading scorer with 20 points, marking a new high for him in these playoffs. He did a little bit of everything in the win, knocking down several jump shots - including one 3-pointer in transition - attacking the offensive glass for second chance opportunities and making his presence felt on defence with two big blocks.
The Raptors are now a perfect 8-0 in these playoffs when Ibaka scores in double figures compared to 7-7 when he doesn't.
"I was just trying to play basketball out there," Ibaka said post-game. "We know they would try to take Kawhi away, double him, so I just tried to play in the space. And also Kawhi and Kyle, all the guys, they did a great job to find me every time I was moving."
The Warriors, on the other hand, didn't get much out of their role players in Game 4. Curry and Thompson scored 55 points, but Draymond Green and Kevon Looney were the only other players to score double digits with 10 points each. Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook combined to miss all six of their 3-point attempts, Alfonzo McKinnie shot 1-for-4 from the field and DeMarcus Cousins had more turnovers (5) than field goals made (3).
Based on how the first four games of the series have gone, whichever team gets more production from its support cast will go a long way in deciding the outcome of Game 5.
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