Feeding off a savage defense that clamps down with impunity

Golden State returns to the Bay Area having stolen home-court advantage with a 109-104 Game 2 victory. The soul-crushing 18-0 run to begin the third quarter highlighted every weapon in the Warriors’ arsenal: the aforementioned crippling defense, devastating three-point shooting, and the kind of deft passing that keeps the ball moving and the defense guessing. It transformed a 59-54 halftime deficit into a commanding 72-59 lead that has altered the tenor of this series.

The blueprint against the Toronto Raptors was to reduce Kawhi Leonard’s basketball life to misery, or at the very least considerable discomfort. Blitz him, double him, triple him if necessary, force him to give up the ball and dare the others to beat you.

It was a sound strategy on paper — except the “others” were not only expecting it, they were aiming to exploit it. So, it was a collection of “complementary” Raptors who vaulted Toronto to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-109 in a raucous Scotiabank Arena, delivering a roundhouse right to a team that so often has seemed invincible.

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