The Toronto Raptors, with the support of an entire nation behind them, won the first NBA Finals game played outside the United States with a thrilling 118-109 victory over the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
Toronto were led by Cameroonian forward Pascal Siakam, who scored a playoff career-high 32 points while Golden State’s sharp-shooting duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson failed to find their usual groove in the opening game of the series.
The Raptors led by 10 points at the half and Siakam, who two years ago was playing in the NBA’s development league, did his part to prevent the Warriors from closing the gap as he went a perfect 6-for-6 shooting in the third quarter.
7:31 to play on ABC & Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/LrGfJZUAtT
— NBA (@NBA) May 31, 2019
“It just proves that if you put the work in, man, and it’s something that it’s so cliche most of the time, but that’s the story of my life,” said Siakam, whose total point were the most in an NBA Finals game by an NBA G League alumni.
“Just going out there every single night, working hard to get to this level, and knowing that I have so much to learn and I have so much room to improve and grow.”
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:
Shaquille O’Neal pic.twitter.com/LeC2u20SUd
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 31, 2019
Toronto led nearly the entire way and built a 12-point lead, their largest of the game, when Danny Green drained a three-pointer from the corner that whipped the crowd into a frenzy with seven-and-a-half minutes to play.
The Warriors, who are trying to become the first NBA team to win three consecutive titles since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in 2002, got to within eight points but the Raptors held firm and padded their lead in the closing minutes.
“Their defense was great and it wasn’t our best night, but we just got outplayed, so simple as that,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “Move on to the next one.”
The Warriors, who played the Cleveland Cavaliers in each of the last four NBA Finals, are not too familiar with the Raptors and were largely undone by 16 turnovers and a weak transition defense that surrendered 24 fast-break points. Toronto, came out firing in their Finals debut and were not intimidated by a talent-laden Warriors team who are playing in the NBA’s championship series for a fifth consecutive season.
Playing in front of a raucous crowd that included two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, the Raptors used a bevy of early three-pointers to take control and while the Warriors did well to keep it close Toronto closed the half on a wild 19-8 run.
“I love it because the one thing that we must do in this series that we need to do is go for it, and that just showed our no hesitancy, confidence, and willing to just kind of go for it,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said about the early slew of three-point attempts.
For the Warriors, who were playing without injured Kevin Durant, the loss snapped a streak of 12 consecutive Game One victories and so puts them in an unfamiliar position.
But there was no sense of panic in the team and Curry said he felt good about the vibe in the Warriors locker-room in terms of everybody focusing on what they need to do differently for Game Two.
“Obviously the bad is we’re down 0-1 but it’s not the end of the world,” said Curry, who went 8-for-18 from the field for a game-high 34 points.
“New experiences for us all the way through, but we have proven our resiliency and ability to win games that we need to, and kind of answer the bell and learn from nights like tonight.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 31, 2019
Game Two of the best-of-seven championship series in on Sunday in Toronto.