How Warriors Can Beat Raptors in NBA Finals, Reintegrate Kevin Durant

Editor's note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area's Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith


TORONTO -- Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be OK.

I imagine some Warriors fans heard Steve Kerr say "they outplayed us" after the Raptors' Game 1 win, and those fans are wondering why. The Warriors ran into a great opponent in the NBA Finals.

Kerr explained that two things hurt the Warriors: poor transition defense and turnovers. He said postgame: "The biggest thing for me was our transition defense was just awful, and that's the game. That's the No. 1 priority when you play Toronto. You have to take care of their transition, and we gave up 24 fast-break points. we turned it over 17 times. So that's the game, really."

When the Warriors can identify two glaring things, they can put more effort there to react. They have two days to watch film and adjust before Game 2.

Game On!

@MuranakaRyota @KerithBurke what's the key for Warriors beating Raptors in NBA Finals? #askKerith

I wrote this reply Tuesday during the flight to Toronto: The short, boring answer is good defense and few turnovers. (Wow! I'm a genius!)

Kawhi Leonard is the best player in the East. You also could argue that he's the best two-way player in the NBA, and the best overall player, although Kevin Durant fights him for that distinction.

Kawhi fits into the small category of players who are impossible to stop. You can only hope to frustrate him. He'll be doubled, smothered, trapped, blitzed by the Warriors to get him away from his spots and to force him to pass.

Even with a bum wheel, Kawhi muscled his way to 23 points, with eight rebounds and five assists in Game 1.

It's like whack-a-mole: If the Warriors put their attention on Kawhi and Kyle Lowry, that frees up other Raptors to perform well. Pascal Siakam had a monster game with 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting.

Good defense also means keeping Danny Green in his slump. Green had a streak of eight consecutive games in which he scored fewer than 10 points. He broke through with 11 points in Game 1, and three 3s to ignite the Scotiabank Arena crowd.

For Game 2, the Warriors must limit turnovers to prevent the Raptors from getting free chances. Demoralize them with crisp play. The Dubs are the back-to-back defending champs. They've been to five consecutive Finals. The Raptors are in this situation for the first time. Don't grow their confidence by letting them capitalize on mistakes.

@dshiao Assuming KD comes back for The Finals, how does the coaching staff think about "integrating" him back in? #askKerith

KD has a great feel for the game, so folding him back in is a question of making sure he's comfortable physically, like ready for game speed. If his legs and are lungs ready, it should be pretty seamless.

KD missed the last game of the Rockets series, the Trail Blazers sweep and now Game 1 of the Finals. That's a lot of high-intensity games, but the chemistry he has with his teammates will bring him back in.

KD is in Year 3 with the Dubs. After going through two championships seasons, he'll revert to the "in the trenches" experiences he's built with his teammates.

Via IG, @brentghan wonders, With Boogie looking to make a comeback during the Finals, does he expect to start or would he be accepting of a role with the second unit?

This question came in before Game 1, but it's good to touch on DeMarcus' performance. Keep in mind that he jumped back into the highest level of play after about seven weeks of rehab. DeMarcus never before has been this deep in the playoffs. There are physical and mental demands that were new for him.

Cousins came off the bench for eight minutes, getting three points on the free-throw line, with two assist and two steals. Eight to 12 minutes per game feels about right for Cousins in this series. Kerr said the big man did "a nice job" and made some good passes.

@Michaelosfc #askkerith 2 part question. Your prediction, Who's your nba finals mvp? And how many games do you think this series will go?

Should the Warriors win, my Finals MVP is Draymond Green. But it probably will go to Steph.

I'm anticipating Draymond will build on his remarkable playoff performances, like his triple-doubles and stalwart defense. He was ticked off that Siakam had 32 points in Game 1, and we know what a ticked-off Draymond looks like.

However, as important as defense is to championships, it isn't sexy. Draymond doesn't splash threes like Steph. He isn't the game-high scorer. His gravity is different. And when Steph has been in the Finals MVP conversation before and hasn't won, it starts to feel like he's due.

Both are deserving. Both have lifted the team when KD's calf injury left a massive hole to shore up. Either would be happy to see the other get it because ultimately they'd be lifting another trophy together. That's the ultimate prize before an individual accolade.

As for how many games this series will go, I don't like making predictions. I don't know!

Via IG, @thefolfoxchronicles83 says, Pat McCaw seems to be a lucky charm. Do players sign a do not disclose in terms of certain plays they run or do they go to other teams giving away all the "secrets" and tricks?

The NBA is a small world, and it's not unusual that a teammate last year is your opponent this year. There's so much movement in the league that asking players not to disclose things that would give a competitive advantage to their current team would be impossible.

Yes, Patrick McCaw could give the Raptors insights about what the Warriors like to run, and what tendencies his old teammates have. But the Warriors don't have too many tricks. You could study them deeply, know exactly what they're going to run, and still have trouble stopping it because their execution is so good.

High Five

This week's goes to the city of Toronto's hospitality. There's a kindness in the air that goes along with the excitement of a city embracing the Raptors as they play in the franchise's first Finals.

When Monte, Logan and I were sitting outside for one of our pregame hits, a group of Raptors fans wanted to know where we were from, if we wanted any water and if they could politely root for the Raptors behind us. They moved along before we went live, but it made me smile. Thanks, Canada.


Be sure to tune in Friday for the latest edition of Corner 3, the Facebook Live and MyTeams app show we're doing on practice days. We're aiming for a 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT show.

We'll take your comments and questions on our Facebook page, so let us know what's on your mind ahead of Game 2.

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area's Warriors coverage all season.

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