TORONTO RAPTORS VS GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The biggest event in basketball has arrived, the NBA Finals, the two best teams in the world go head to head in a best of seven series to decide who will be crowned world champions.
Will we see Toronto win their first title in their history, or will we see Golden State complete the three-peat with their third consecutive title?
The Toronto Raptors finished the 82-game regular season second in the Eastern conference with 58 wins, while the Golden State Warriors finished in first position with 57 wins making this an enticing match-up.
The Raptors will have the home court advantage with four out of the potential seven games in Toronto, including the first two at home followed by game five and seven if required.
The Journey to the Finals:
The first round of the Western conference finals saw the Warriors face a scare from the eighth seed Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors were expected to win the series 4-0 however, they were pushed hard by Lou Williams and the Clippers, eventually winning the series in six games (4-2).
The next matchup for the Warriors was a rematch of the 2017-18 Western Conference finals series, with Golden State meeting James Harden and the Houston Rockets. While the Warriors were again pushed by their opponent they finished the series off in six games yet again winning 4-2.
The Warriors were back in the Western Conference finals for a fifth consecutive season and this time they faced the Portland Trailblazers who were coming off a strenuous seven-game series with the Denver Nuggets. The professional unit of Golden State were far too good for the tired Trailblazers wrapping up the series in just four games to win 4-0 on the back of four straight 35+ point games by point guard Steph Curry.
The first round of the Eastern conference finals saw the second seed in the east the Toronto Raptors face the Orlando Magic who finished the season in seventh position. While the Raptors experienced a major scare losing game one at home to the Magic, they were able to win the next four games and take out the series 4-1.
Toronto faced Philadelphia in the next round, being the Eastern Conference semi-finals. The 76ers pushed the Raptors right to the wire, it was second vs third and the series lived up to the hype. The series went to seven games with Kawhi Leonard hitting a buzzer beater to win the series, the ball bouncing from one side of the ring to the other and then in the hoop.
The Raptors faced the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern conference finals, the Bucks finishing the regular season in first position in the Eastern conference making this another tough task for the Raptors. The Bucks took game one and two before the Raptors went to another gear winning the next four games to take the series 4-2 and book themselves a place in the NBA finals for the first time in their history.
Steph Curry – The two-time MVP has averaged 27.3 points per game in the playoffs so far along with 5.6 assists. Curry is arguably the greatest three-point shooter of all time and if he gets hot from behind the three-point arc during the Finals the Raptors are going to have a tough time.
Kevin Durant – While he is expected to miss game one the 2017-18 Finals MVP knows how to be at his best on the biggest stage. Durant has only taken part in eleven of the Warriors sixteen 2018-19 playoff games because of a calf-strain, however if he plays at all during the Finals series Golden State will be hard to beat. Durant has averaged 34.3 points per game as well as 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in the eleven games he has played. His length makes him hard to stop on the defensive end.
Draymond Green – While he may not be as flashy as Durant and Curry, the impact Green has on the Warriors is huge. A player that isn’t afraid to show his emotion on the court is currently averaging almost a triple-double during these playoffs with 13.6 points per game, 9.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists. Green’s biggest strength is the impact he has on the defensive end, averaging almost two blocks a game during the playoffs as well as 1.4 steals per game.
Andre Iguodala – He is likely to start in game one due to the expected absence of Kevin Durant. Previously he has played the role of sixth man for the Warriors coming off the bench, however with Durant out injured expect Iguodala to start in game one and potentially go to Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard. In previous NBA finals series, we’ve seen him be assigned the job of guarding LeBron James. He can impact on both the offensive and defensive end. He is averaging 10.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game throughout the 2018-19 playoffs.
Klay Thompson – Arguably one of the best shooters in the NBA right now. If Thompson gets hot from behind the three-point arc along with Steph Curry the Warriors shouldn’t have much trouble winning their third consecutive title. Thompson is currently averaging 19.1 points per game and shooting at 39.3% from behind the 3-point line.
Kawhi Leonard – In 2014 Leonard and the Spurs defeated the stacked Miami Heat to take out the NBA championship. Leonard was named Finals MVP at the raw age of 22. He knows how to win, and has shown that throughout his first season with the Raptors. He is the star of the franchise and the key to the Raptors winning their first ever NBA championship. Leonard has averaged 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game throughout the 2018-19 NBA playoffs.
Kyle Lowry – Known to be inconsistent in the playoffs Lowry will have the task of impacting the offensive end of the floor with his shooting and passing as well as the tough task of limiting Steph Curry’s impact. Lowry has averaged 14.7 points and 6.4 assists throughout the playoffs.
Pascal Siakim – The 6 ft. 9 forward has taken his game to a new level this season and has followed up his regular season form with playoff averages of 18.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. His offensive impact will go a long way in determining whether the Raptors achieve championship success.
NBA Finals Schedule:
Game 1: Toronto vs Golden State – Scotia Bank Arena 30/5/19.
Game 2: Toronto vs Golden State – Scotia Bank Arena 2/6/19.
Game 3: Golden State vs Toronto – Oracle Arena 5/6/19.
Game 4: Golden State vs Toronto – Oracle Arena 7/6/19.
Game 5: Toronto vs Golden State – Scotia Bank Arena 10/6/19.
Game 6: Golden State vs Toronto – Oracle Arena 14/6/19.
Game 7: Toronto vs Golden State – Scotia Bank Arena 16/6/19.
Photo: 2012 NBA Finals – Heat vs Thunder by Michael Tipton available here and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.