Grant Cohn: Warriors' issues go beyond missing Kevin Durant

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The Warriors played like chumps.

They shot poorly, defended poorly and committed 16 turnovers against the Toronto Raptors during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Warriors seemed totally out of sync, like they hadn’t played a game in nine days.

Maybe that’s because they hadn’t played a game in nine days.

They eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers back on May 20. We should have expected the Warriors to be rusty on the road after a nine-day layoff. They won’t be rusty in Game 2.

Good news for the Warriors.

But they still have issues. They were arrogant coming into this series, from the coaching staff down to the players. And their arrogance showed in their defense. Usually, they have the best defensive game plans in the NBA. But in Game 1, the Warriors’ defensive game plan was disrespectful and ill-conceived.

They treated the Raptors like a one-man team. They triple-teamed Kawhi Leonard almost every time he touched the ball. And when Leonard passed, the Warriors didn’t hustle to defend the open shooters.

The Warriors acted like they never had heard of Pascal Siakam or Marc Gasol, who combined to score 52 points and make 20 of 27 shots in Game 1. The Warriors allowed the Raptors’ supporting players to beat them even though Leonard wasn’t playing a great game. He made only five field goals. Steve Kerr never made an adjustment. Never coached. He merely sat and watched the Warriors lose. He almost certainly will adjust in Game 2.

More good news for the Warriors.

But the adjustments may not work. The Raptors have a balanced offensive attack — more balanced than the Warriors. Five Raptors scored at least 11 points in Game 1 — Siakam (32 points), Leonard (23), Gasol (20), Fred Van Vleet (15) and Danny Green (11). The Raptors also have Kyle Lowry, who scored only seven points but is averaging 14.3 points in the playoffs. Those are six scorers.

The Warriors have just two — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. They combined to score 55 points in Game 1. No other player on the Warriors scored more than 10 points. They don’t have a third scorer without Kevin Durant, who has a strained calf. The Warriors expect he will come back for Game 3 or 4.

Durant’s return would be great news for the Warriors, depending on whether he’s actually ready to play big minutes and contribute. Depending on whether he’s actually Kevin Durant.

But the Warriors still seem old and tired. Usually, they’re faster and better conditioned than their opponents. Not in this series. The Raptors are younger and fresher. Leonard and Siakam are 27 and 25 respectively — the same ages Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were when they won their first championship.

All of the Warriors best players are 29 or older. They seem exhausted from five-straight trips to the NBA Finals. They couldn’t keep up with Siakam, the Raptors’ power forward, who was the fastest player on the court. He looked like Draymond Green from four years ago.

And Green looked like he was 35. Made just two of nine shots and committed a whopping six turnovers. Seemed small and slow compared to Siakam.

Andre Iguodala scored just six points before re-injuring his strained calf late in the fourth quarter. He has missed 11 3-point shots in a row since the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets, when he played 34.6 minutes per game, after averaging just 23.2 minutes during the regular season. He may have worn himself out against the Rockets, who were good, but not as good as the Raptors. Iguodala seems gassed and injured.

DeMarcus Cousins scored just three points in eight minutes during Game 1. He came off the bench and played only when Leonard was on the bench, because Cousins isn’t quick enough to guard Leonard on the perimeter. Cousins is a defensive liability. He probably won’t play much in this series.

The Warriors desperately need Durant, who hasn’t played since May 8, to come back and carry them to victory. And he certainly is talented enough to carry them.

But Durant may not be enough. The Warriors are 0-3 against the Raptors this season. The Raptors are the best team these Warriors have ever faced in the playoffs. Leonard has won the Defensive Player of the Year Award twice, Gasol has won it once, backup center Serge Ibaka has been first-team all-defense three times and Siakam might be the best defender the Raptors have right now. He’s an ascending player, averaging 19.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks in his first playoff run as a starter.

Beating the Raptors would be the Warriors’ biggest accomplishment yet, the crown jewel of their remarkable dynasty.

But they won’t beat the Raptors, even if Durant returns. He’ll be rusty and out of shape and he won’t lift the Warriors on his weary shoulders. The dynasty ends here.

No shame in that.

Grant Cohn covers the 49ers and Bay Area sports for The Press Democrat and pressdemocrat.com in Santa Rosa. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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