Fred VanVleet helps Raptors take 1-0 series lead in NBA Finals


Brian Hayes

Fred VanVleet defends John Wall. VanVleet had a steal and five defensive rebounds against the Washington Wizards. (Oct. 22, 2016)

Fred VanVleet is proving to be a key for the Raptors success during Toronto’s postseason run.

On Thursday, the Raptors took game one from the Golden State Warriors in Toronto, 118-109, to take a 1-0 series lead in the NBA Finals. The former Wichita State standout finished with 15 points on 5-8 shooting. He also knocked down a circus three-pointer late in the fourth quarter that helped extend the team’s insurmountable lead.

VanVleet was the lone double-digit scorer off the bench for either team.

In the last four games since the birth of his second child, Fred Jr., VanVleet is averaging 15.7 points per game on 66 percent shooting from the field (22-33). That also includes making 15 out of his last 21 three-point attempts. In the last series against Milwaukee, VanVleet’s stretch of making 14 of 17 threes was the highest percentage of long range makes across a three-game span in NBA playoff history, among players with at least 15 attempts.

On defense, VanVleet was assigned to Warriors all-star Stephen Curry. Curry finished with a game-high 34 points but could never get on a scoring run like he’s known for with the tight defense from VanVleet. According to Second Spectrum, VanVleet held Curry to just two points on 29 possessions as the primary defender. In the two games he’s guarded Curry this season, he has held the superstar to just six points on 68 possessions.

VanVleet credits his recent stand-out performances to “more opportunity.”

“I made some shots last series and it builds and builds. Obviously, if you’re a hot player then you’re going to play more minutes, and with more minutes comes more opportunity,” VanVleet said after game one. “I just have to make open shots when I get them and make plays when I need to make plays and keep going out there and guarding and scrapping to help us win.”

Game two is set for a 7:00 p.m. CT tip off on Sunday in Toronto. The game will be broadcasted on ABC.