That magical time of the year is back again where the two top teams in the NBA compete to see who is the best team in the NBA Finals. This year we will see the Golden State Warriors (again) take on the Toronto Raptors. What should you look for in this series? Well, let’s find out.
The Road to the Finals
The Golden State Warriors went on a weird journey to reach the top with their road seemingly getting easier with each round. The Clippers gave them an actual run as the eight seed in round one by overcoming a 31-point deficit in one game and taking two in a row in Oracle Arena. Of course, a collection of talent could only take the Clippers so far. In round two they took on the Houston Rockets in a hotly contested matchup. They won the first two games and then dropped the next two against a team who relied on James Harden to do everything. He did all he could, but when the Warriors get better without Kevin Durant, there is really nothing more they could have done. In the conference finals, they carried their momentum to a clean sweep against the Trail Blazers with really no sweat at all. Now they sit back and wait. Here’s how it all shook out:
- Round 1 – Won 4-2 vs Los Angeles Clippers
- Round 2 – Won 4-2 vs Houston Rockets
- Round 3 – Won 4-0 vs Portland Trail Blazers
The Toronto Raptors had a much more treacherous journey to the finals by getting a test in every round. Round one they lost the first game to the Orlando Magic but quickly regained their footing after the loss. Round two against the Philadelphia 76ers was their toughest matchup where they won in seven games against a team with the best starting lineup in the NBA. It took a miraculous shot by Kawhi Leonard at the buzzer to put them over the top. Finally, in round three they took on the team with the best record all season in the Milwaukee Bucks, taking them down in six games. They proved they were the best in the east and are ready for their first finals appearance.
- Round 1 – Won 4-1 vs Orlando Magic
- Round 2 – Won 4-3 vs Philadelphia 76ers
- Round 3 – Won 4-2 vs Milwaukee Bucks
Storylines to watch
- Kevin Durant’s calf is the big story to watch in this series. Will he even play? Will he even be needed? As of now he has been ruled out for game 1 but will be traveling with the team for games 1 and 2. If he plays, will he help the team or ruin their momentum? I don’t expect him to play but if he does, he will be nowhere near ready to help the team.
- Demarcus Cousins seemed to be done for the season after going down in round 1. He is officially active for Game 1. The man has never played in the playoffs until this season, so I expect to see him in this series. The problem is the Warriors were also better without him. It will be interesting to see if the combination of him on a Durant-less team can be a winning combination.
- The end of a dynasty appears to be on the horizon. The Warriors have been to the last five finals and won three not including this one. However, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Demarcus Cousins all will be free agents this summer. Draymond Green will be a free agent the year after and wants the max. Reports are Durant is on his way to New York and even Steve Kerr has said he does not expect Cousins back. Klay is the key with rumors recently saying he doesn’t like the scraps leftover by Durant and Curry. Durant’s decision will alter the NBA entirely. Regardless of the rumors, this will most likely be the last time we see this group together.
- The Kawhi Leonard Factor will be the biggest asset for the Toronto Raptors. Some of us forget that just two years ago Zaza Pachulia got underneath Kawhi on a jump shot with the Spurs up big and essentially sent him to Toronto. The injury was mishandled by San Antonio and the rest is history. He is being floated as the best player in the NBA right now and just looks unstoppable even though he is not at 100%. He was a Warrior killer before getting hurt but, can that continue here? His contract is also a factor. We all knew he wanted to be in Los Angeles last year but will a title in Toronto change his mind? We shall see.
- Kyle Lowry’s mentality has been a key weakness for the Raptors for a while now. He always chokes in the playoffs, especially against Lebron. This year we saw signs of that including a 0-point performance game 1 vs Orlando. He is a great regular season player who just disappears in the playoffs. Can he shake that off on the NBA’s biggest stage? It’s doubtful but maybe finally making it to the finals will be the push he needs.
- Can the curse be broken is the final question for the Raptors. This seems to be their window right now. They built up homegrown talent in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. They traded for Marc Gasol, a former all-star at the deadline to bolster the defense. Finally, they traded for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green at the deadline with each only having the potential to be rentals. All of this was for a win now mode and they are confident they can win. Can they make this a series and win a game 1?
Who will win?
This series will come down to just how much the Warriors can get in their own way. We know they are the better team and they are currently playing like it but will returning players disrupt the chemistry and lead to a hungry Raptors team ready to steal the title? The Toronto Raptors are making their first finals appearance ever and have home court advantage but, they need to be ready for the moment. If the Warriors go up 2-0, don’t be surprised if the Raptors still win this. They have been down in every series these playoffs and went on to win. They don’t give up. Stephen Curry vs Kawhi Leonard, who will win MVP? It will be a fun series to watch and when making predictions, you have to go bold.
- Jader – Warriors in 5
- David – Warriors in 4
- Steve – Warriors in 6
- Scott – Warriors in 6
- Kyle – Raptors in 4 (If I’m right everyone will be so impressed!)