When facing a team as dangerous as the back-to-back defending champion Warriors, the margin of error is extremely slim, even when they're plagued by injury.
While a number of things could have gone better - or differently - for Toronto in Game 2, the consensus among the team after Game 2 is that it ultimately came down to a subpar start to the second half.
After the halftime break, Golden State opened the third quarter on an 18-0 run, turning a five-point deficit into a 13-point lead. Per TSN's Josh Lewenberg, the Warriors run was the biggest to begin a half in NBA Finals history and their 20-0 extended run is also a Finals record.
Toronto would claw back but ultimately couldn't overcome the deficit that came from the poor start that, according to Kyle Lowry, was the difference in the game:
"We didn't play well enough. We missed too many shots. They got out in transition and got a little bit of confidence going… We lost the game there. We fought back and did a great job, but we missed some looks in the third quarter that we usually make."
In the third quarter alone, the Raptors shot 7-for-22 (31.8%) from the field and 2-for-9 (22.2%) from beyond the arc as they were outscored 34-21 by the Warriors, who shot 14-for-25 (56.0%) from the field in the frame. According to All-Star Kawhi Leonard, the team's defensive struggles were heightened by its inability to get going on the offensive end:
"I feel like in that third quarter, we didn't score the ball in like the first five minutes, four and a half minutes, obviously led to them getting out in transition early and a lot of layups and open looks, and that was pretty much the game right there… you can't do that with a championship team on the other side."
Fred VanVleet alluded to pace as well, adding that he felt the team's speed - or lack thereof - to begin the half was detrimental: "Overall I think just started too slow. You can't do that against this team."
"Missing every shot doesn't help, whatever, 10 possessions in a row we didn't score" VanVleet added, "It didn't feel like we were even getting in the paint to control the tempo or the flow of the game."
Pascal Siakam, who finished with just 12 points (on 5-for-18 shooting) after a big night in Game 1, echoed the reserve point guard, emphasizing the importance of controlling the pace when asked about the team's offensive struggles:
I think we missed a lot of shots. I don't think we came out with the pace we were supposed to come out with, knowing that they are definitely a third-quarter team. Maybe just a sense of urgency, doing a better job, a better pace.
During the five-year Finals run of this Warriors team, it has become notorious for using the third quarter to quickly erase deficits or blow games wide open - Game 2 was a reminder of just how quickly this team can swing a game in the third period.
As the series shifts to Oracle Arena for Games 3 and 4, Toronto must now focus on controlling the pace and knocking down shots in a road environment. With an increased focus on what exactly went wrong to begin the second half, this Raptors team must produce when the margin of error becomes even slimmer.
Toronto will look to regain control in the series in Game 3 on Thursday.
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