Last summer’s trade that landed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from the Spurs not only shook up the Raptors‘ roster, it brought two players with championship experience to a franchise that didn’t have any, writes Steve Popper of Newsday.
Leonard and Green, who will both be free agents this summer, were teammates on San Antonio’s title-winning team in 2014. They helped to calm any nerves in Game 1 by scoring the Raptors’ first six points.
“I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it to me,” Green said. “We got out running, able to run our offense how we’ve been doing most of the year. When we’re in our transition that’s when we’re at our best. [It’s] very important, especially playing against three-time, four-time, whatever champions. So many times they’ve been [to the Finals]. You’ve got to protect home court. It’s what we fought for all year. Can’t give them any type of life or confidence and keep taking advantage of the advantage that we have.”
There’s more tonight from Toronto:
- Marc Gasol is making his first NBA Finals appearance after nearly a decade in Memphis, but he tells Jim Slater of Yahoo Sports that he’s not in awe of the experience. “My brain doesn’t function that way,” Gasol said. “You’re playing basketball like you did your whole life and it’s the most fun. You got to stay poised during the whole game so your brain can’t go anywhere else but every possession.”
- Pascal Siakam, the hero of Game 1 with a 32-point performance, has a background unlike any other NBA player’s, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Siakam was introduced to the game as a teenager in his native Cameroon when he attended a Basketball Without Borders camp to visit his sister, whom he hadn’t seen in five years. “I didn’t even know if I really dreamed of being at this level,” Siakam said. “I couldn’t even think about this moment because it wasn’t reachable for me.”
- Former Raptors assistant and G League head coach Jerry Stackhouse said he felt like a “proud papa” watching Siakam’s outburst, relays Frank Isola of The Athletic. Stackhouse, who accepted a job at Vanderbilt in April, also worked closely with Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, who have played important roles in Toronto’s playoff run. “It’s a good advertisement for the league,” Stackhouse said. “That’s what the development league is supposed to do. Those were three guys with a lot of pride who all worked hard. They earned it.”