Golden State Warriors (1) vs. Toronto Raptors (2)
After going through three different playoff series, we are finally here with the conference champions ready to do battle on Thursday night for the start of the 2019 NBA Finals to crown a new champion. The question will be whether that will indeed by a completely new champion in the Toronto Raptors or if the Golden State Warriors can complete the three-peat.
Steph versus the Klaw should be a fun one to watch, but we’re sure Leonard has vengeance on his mind. He and the San Antonio Spurs were up by 25 points as Leonard was dominating in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals before Leonard landed on Zaza Pachulia’s foot and was not able to return to the series. In a game the Spurs seemed to be well on their way to a win in, already without Tony Parker, the Warriors came back for the win and swept the series. Now Leonard is with the Raptors and in the Finals against the Warriors, so it would likely be some sweet revenge for him to be able to win his second championship by way of beating the Warriors and ending their reign.
But the Warriors are not the Milwaukee Bucks or the Philadelphia 76ers, they are a championship winning juggernaut that has seemed to be largely unaffected by the losses of Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. They dispatched the Portland Trail Blazers in five games and have had some extended rest waiting to see who their opponents might be.
By this point, regular season matchups don’t even matter. The teams are playing at a completely different level. It’s time to tip the ball and let the best two teams in the league play it out.
Finals TV Schedule
Game 1 – Thur, May 30, Golden State at Toronto – 9 ET (ABC)
Game 2 – Sun, June 2, Golden State at Toronto – 8 ET (ABC)
Game 3 – Wed, June 5, Toronto at Golden State – 9 ET (ABC)
Game 4 – Fri, June 7, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 5 – Mon, June 10, Golden State at Toronto – 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 6 – Thur, June 13, Toronto at Golden State – 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 7 – Sun, June 16, Golden State at Toronto – 8 ET (ABC)
*Games 5-7 if necessary
Golden State Warriors Starting Lineup
*Iguodala is probable for Game 1, but Steve Kerr may go with Alfonzo McKinnie.
Toronto Raptors Starting Lineup
Key Player Matchups
PG: Stephen Curry vs. Kyle Lowry
Edge: Warriors. Lowry has cast aside all of the talk of him disappearing in the playoffs with his play, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee. You could certainly make the point that the Raptors wouldn’t be in the Finals without Lowry, from him going off beyond the arch to his pesky defense and willingness to soar above bigger players for key rebounds. But going from being matched up with Eric Bledsoe to Stephen Curry is a major difference. Curry’s constant motion and ability to knock down shots from everywhere is going to make for a tough matchup. Curry’s got the edge here.
SG – Klay Thompson vs, Danny Green
Edge Warriors. If Danny Green continues on the trend or slump he was on during the series with Milwaukee, this won’t even be close. While Toronto fans would probably prefer that Norman Powell get the start here, the Raptors will need Green’s defense on Thompson, and possible to switch off on Steph from time to time. As good as Green’s defense can be, he couldn’t even knock down multiple wide open three-point shots in the conference finals. Klay, on the other hand, doesn’t miss much and he’s also a pest on defense.
SF – Andre Iguodala vs. Kawhi Leonard
Edge Raptors. This matchup gets a lot more interesting if Kevin Durant returns, but the chances seem to be dwindling. Leonard is special and it’s something he’s shown since he won the Finals MVP years ago with San Antonio. He’s on an incredible tear lately. While there are some worries about whether his body might break down and he may get tired in this series, as good as Iguodala is defensively, Leonard seems unstoppable lately.
PF – Draymond Green vs. Pascal Siakam
Edge Even. We may see some switching where Kerr defends Kawhi with Green while Iguodala switches on Siakam. As is, this is a fun matchup. Green is a big reason the Warriors offense and defense is so good. Green reads the floor incredibly well and directs traffic and makes the smart passes in Golden State’s high-octane, motion-friendly offense, while he is also versatile on defense to guard multiple positions. Siakam has made a major leap this season and is obviously the second option on offense behind Kawhi. He’s also long and quick, which can be a nightmare for anyone he’s guarding.
C – Andrew Bogut vs. Marc Gasol
Slight edge Raptors. The Warriors could use a few other players at center as well, but with Gasol starting, expect Kerr to counter with Bogut. This is a close one. Bogut can space the floor and can clean up around the basket, but at this stage, Gasol is more skilled at both ends of the court.
Coach: Steve Kerr vs. Nick Nurse
Edge Warriors. I’m hesitant here after I gave the coaching edge to Mike Budenholzer over Nurse in the last series. Nurse has proven that it’s no accident that he is head coach of a team in the NBA Finals. He made fantastic adjustments after Games 1 and 2 and managed his rotations well. That said, Kerr is probably in the top three of the current active head coaches. Many are quick to credit the players and take some of the credit away from him, but as much talent as the Warriors have, this was a much different team before Kerr took over. His offensive and defensive schemes work to utilize all of his talent and he adjusts very well between games.
Bench: Edge Even. The Warriors know what they have when it comes to their bench. They know what they’re likely going to get from game to game. The Raptors also have a ton of talent in their second unit, and although that group wasn’t as effective against Philadelphia, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka stepped up when Toronto needed them most.
Draymond Green – Aside from everything he brings offensively, Green’s defense is key here. If you can limit Kawhi, you have a much better chance at winning the game and if Green can spell Iguodala with solid defense on Leonard, it could be a series-changer.
Danny Green – While the San Antonio Spurs lost the 2013 NBA Finals, Green may have been named the Finals MVP had they won. He was on fire from deep, played outstanding transition defense, defended Dwyane Wade well and helped on LeBron when needed. If Green can have an impact in this Finals series, maybe not to the extent that he did in 2013, but if he can get his shot to fall and make life hard on Klay and Steph, that gives the Raptors a better chance.
Warriors in 5. I’ve been going back and forth between five and six with my prediction since the Raptors won. It came down to five for me because even without Durant and Cousins, the Warriors haven’t really been challenged in these playoffs. Even in a few games against Portland, they started games off rough just to come storming back.
Golden State is just a well-balanced team, while the Raptors really rely heavily on Leonard’s heroics. Siakam has played well for a few games and the same can be said for Lowry, but their three best players have rarely all played well. After going six with Milwaukee, keeping up with Golden State’s pace and then being run into their defense is probably going to be too big a challenge. I’ve got Toronto winning one game at home in a gentleman’s sweep.
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