The 2019 NBA Finals are set to get underway on Thursday night. Game 1 will be the first Finals game to take place outside of the United States, as the 58-24 Raptors narrowly beat out the 57-25 Warriors for home court advantage.
Despite Toronto’s home court advantage and regular season edge – including a 2-0 record vs. Golden State – the Warriors will enter the series as the overwhelming favorites to win their fourth title in five years, and third in a row. Even without Kevin Durant in their lineup for the start of the series, the Dubs have enough weapons on both ends of the court that they’ll be difficult to beat.
Of course, Golden State’s top weapon is Stephen Curry, who has gone into full-on Human Torch mode since Durant went down vs. Houston. In his last five games – all Warriors wins – Curry shot 41.7% on 14.4 three-point attempts per contest, and has scored at least 33 points in every game.
Klay Thompson has been a reliable No. 2 scoring option, averaging 22.6 PPG with a .400 3PT% over those five games, while Draymond Green has filled up the box score (14.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 8.4 APG, 2.4 BPG, 2.0 SPG) and been everywhere on defense.
Still, the Warriors have yet to face a defense like this Raptors’ unit in the postseason. Toronto’s starting lineup features a pair of former Defensive Players of the Year (Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol) and a former All-Defensive guard (Danny Green) to go along with stout and savvy point guard Kyle Lowry and an athletic forward who can guard all five positions (Pascal Siakam).
Throw in three-time All-Defensive player Serge Ibaka off the bench, and this is a Raptors team that’s capable of adjusting its scheme to a variety of offensive attacks, and switching, trapping, and helping as necessary. It’s possible that no NBA team can truly stop the Warriors, but this looks like the club that’s best equipped to slow them down.
The Raptors haven’t been as dangerous on offense during the playoffs, but Leonard is capable of single-handedly carrying the squad on that end of the court at times, and has turned in an all-time postseason performance through three rounds (31.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .507/.388/.875 shooting). In Thompson, Green, and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have plenty of excellent defenders to throw at him, but Leonard is talented enough to score 30 points even on nights when the defense plays him well.
What do you think? Will the Warriors cement their place in NBA history by becoming the first franchise since the 2000-02 Lakers to win three straight championships? Or will the Raptors pull off the upset and bring Canada its first ever NBA title?
After voting in our poll, head to the comment section to weigh in further on this showdown. Will we see much of Durant this series? How heavily will the outcome weigh on his presence or absence? Will other injured players like DeMarcus Cousins or OG Anunoby make an impact? Which matchups do you expect each team to try to exploit?
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.