Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant
- In the first Raptors-Warriors matchup this season, Kevin Durant exploded for 51 points on 18-of-31 shooting.
- KD has a points prop bet tonight of over/under 27.5 points, and I looked at whether Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Co. can slow him down.
The Raptors take on the Warriors in a matchup of the best team in the league (record-wise) vs. the defending champions (and the presumptive best team in the league) Wednesday.
Are the Raptors a paper tiger again? Are they ready to beat a fully-operational Warriors team? Will the Warriors kick off the kind of run we’ve been waiting on from them? Is this a Finals matchup?
But maybe most importantly…
Can Kevin Durant hit the over on 27.5 points scoring vs. the Raptors?
Durant scored 51 points on 31 shots first time out vs. the Raptors, but, of course, Stephen Curry wasn’t playing in that game. It was a phenomenal performance.
What’s shocking, though, is how much the matchup makes me lean towards the under.
DURANT VS. KAWHI
Durant scored 21 points on 11 field goal attempts in 46 possessions with Leonard defending him in their first matchup this season.
That means, despite covering him the majority of the time, Durant generated only a third of his shots vs. Leonard.
Going back and watching the film, there were a lot of possessions where Durant simply didn’t challenge Leonard. That’s typical; teams often try and simply remove Leonard from the sequence by stationing his man in the corner, as his help defense winds up mucking up so much.
When they did get Durant involved with Leonard on the floor, it was mostly on off-screen action. Here the Warriors stagger screen for him, running Leonard off two defenders to try and get separation:
When it was just one, Leonard’s ability to recover created stuff like this:
That possession led to Durant rushing several similar shots later.
Twenty-one points is still a lot, and doing it on 11 shots is great efficiency. But usage has to be considered here.
Without Curry, Durant was forced to carry the offense, and that led to him having to pull some heroics out of his bag. Durant can hit these shots, for sure, but look at the degree of difficulty on shots like this:
That’s what it takes for Durant to get to 21 points vs. Leonard.
THE OTHER GUYS
Meanwhile, the other Raptors had mixed success. Basically, this group should be broken down into Pascal Siakam and everyone else. Per NBA’s matchup data, Durant generated only eight points on 18 possessions on 3-of-10 shooting with Siakam guarding him.
The phenom’s length really bothered him:
Do you know how damn hard it is to block Kevin Durant? Because I don’t; there’s no conceivable universe where I could get even remotely high enough to do so!
But even for NBA players, it’s remarkably difficult. Those two shots highlighted were the only two blocks recorded on Durant this game, but Siakam was able to force adjustments or misses with the same kind of presence. Making Durant into a normal NBA player that has to be worried about being blocked shaves some of his efficiency off.
The other guys did not have as much luck; OG Anunoby particularly had a hard time. Because he doesn’t have Leonard’s size or strength, he struggles to get over the screen more here, and that means Jonas Valanciunas is in drop coverage, giving the mid-range shot to Durant. That’s a problem:
The other big issue was that late in the game when the Warriors staged a comeback, they went to the well vs. the Raptors’ switching defense.
Toronto will hide Kyle Lowry on Andre Iguodala (who is out tonight, by the way) vs. the Warriors, which is a great idea as it keeps Leonard, Siakam and Danny Green on Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant at all times.
But if you go to a switch, and Durant senses it — guess what? Iguodala’s going to screen.
Nothing to be done there.
Durant’s going to get his, but the overall evidence shows that Leonard and Siakam have the ability to disrupt him.