Breakfast Special: Marc Gasol Makes Me Look Dumb

At what point are we going to stop ragging on Nick Nurse as an NBA head coach?

Nurse has guided the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Finals in franchise history and his team executed a masterful game plan against the Golden State Warriors in order to take Game 1 at home—while we’re on the subject, for that matter, Nurse had such a great regular season coaching the team that his squad got to host Game 1 of the NBA Finals!—and the Raptors won 118-109 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Now, let’s try not to over-react here; the home team won a basketball game in the playoffs, nothing more. The Warriors are in no more trouble than the Raptors were in the Eastern Conference Finals when they lost Game 1 in Milwaukee, lost Game 2 on the road as well, held serve at home, won Game 5 on the road, and closed it out in the most bog-standard “this is how underdogs win in 6” series you’ll ever witness.

But at the same time, Marc Gasol just showed that you can have a “real center” in against Golden State and shut down their motion offense if you run plays designed to do exactly that. The same way Gasol helped take Giannis Antetokounmpo out as a super-factor for the Bucks, he did the same to fluster the Warriors’ ability to spring Stephen Curry.

Yeah, Giannis was good, but he wasn’t MVP good, and that’s in part because of the way Gasol helped enable the rest of Toronto’s defense to take away his supporting shooters.

Granted, Steph still had 34 points on 8-of-18 shooting and 4-of-9 from three, but that’s due more to the referees (Curry was 14-of-14 from the line) than because of the flow of the Warriors’ offense.

Draymond Green had a 10-10-10 triple-double, bringing to mind Jeff Van Gundy’s old rant about whether it’s better to have 10 points and get a triple-double or to score 30 or 40 but only have five assists and eight rebounds.

The Warriors had 29 assists on 34 made baskets, and you’d read 34 makes and think that they were complete garbage. They weren’t—they shot 43.6 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three while making 29-of-31 free throws—but that’s speaking to Toronto’s other big advantage.

The Raptors dragged the pace of this game down to 93.6. They’ve been extremely strong at playing the brand of basketball Gasol played in Memphis in order to maintain control of the game and stop high-powered offenses in Milwaukee and Oakland from running them off the floor.

But back to my point about Gasol I made in the headline. Yesterday, in a piece about the “worst players in the league”, I ran into a roadblock at center because any center who’s playing 2,000 minutes is generally pretty good. Gasol made “worst” and I even outright said “go make me look dumb in the Finals!”

Sometimes I love it when I’m wrong. 20 points on 6-of-10, seven rebounds, and lockdown defense made me look pretty silly.

Speaking of outstanding performances, albeit far more expected ones, Pascal Siakam is back on form with 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting, Kawhi Leonard had 23 on 5-of-14 from the field and 10-of-12 from the line, and the Raptors overall shot 50.6 percent from the field, winning the turnover battle 16-10 and hitting enough of their free throws (27-of-32) to negate any advantage the Warriors might’ve gained with their own lights-out charity tossing.

We have got ourselves a series for the ages, folks. No meaningful Finals minutes for the likes of Cedi Osman or J.R. Smith forgetting the score. The Dubs are gonna have to work for this one.

Nine assists for Kyle Lowry lead the highlights:

Fred VanVleet had 15 to lead the reserves:

Gasol is your man of the match:

Kawhilights:

And the P-Skills that pay the P-Bills:

Game 2 is Sunday. Game 2 breakfast is Monday. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!