The long journey through the NBA regular season has brought to another June with the Golden State Warriors. Before the season, most experts thought their opponent would be the Boston Celtics. A team that seemed to be perfectly set up for the LeBron-less East. Not only are the Celtics not here, they weren’t in the Eastern Conference Finals.
On Thursday night it will be the Warriors against the Toronto Raptors who are pulling off a couple of “firsts”. This will be their first NBA Finals and they are the first team from Canada to make the finals.
The first two games of the series will be big ones for Toronto. With the Raptors having home court advantage against the champs, it’s paramount for them to hold serve. That will be easier said than done. There is no discernable difference between the Warriors at home and the Warriors on the road.
For the Raptors, the complimentary players will have to continue to come up big. That starts with Marc Gasol, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka. They will have to control the ball and be able to work through the Warriors fluid offense. All the while, they will need to control the ball. Norm Powell and Fred VanVleet most continue to give the Raptors the ability to hold down that fort when they go to the bench.
With all this being said, everything must start with the threesome of Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Pascal Siakam. We all know Leonard and his championship pedigree will be there. What we don’t know is if Lowry and Siakam can play at a high level each and every game of the Finals. The Raptors can’t afford “Disappearing Lowry” and Siakam can’t lose confidence and become passive on offense. With most anticipating a Leonard-Andre Iguodala match up, it makes Lowry and Siakam more important that they’ve been all playoffs.
Toronto’s two previous opponents, Philadelphia and Milwaukee had glaring holes that could be exploited. Ben Simmons wasn’t going to hurt the Raps from the perimeter. Joel Embiid’s conditioning led him to uneven play. Outside of the first two games, Bucks star, Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled in big moments. Toronto won’t get that benefit against Golden State.
When the Warriors “struggle” they have an all-star to pick them up. Klay Thompson can hold down the fort until Steph Curry takes over. Draymond Green can bring the ball up and let Thompson and Curry work off screens. Couple that with the possibility of the Warriors getting back both DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant in the series and you start to realize what the Raptors are up against.
All of this plays into why the Raptors are such heavy underdogs. This isn’t the NCAA tournament where you can get by with one lucky night. Beating the defending champ four out of seven will be a tall order.
NBA Finals Schedule
Game 1 Thu., May 30 Golden State at Toronto 9 PM
Game 2 Sun., June 2 Golden State at Toronto 8 PM
Game 3 Wed., June 5 Toronto at Golden State 9 PM
Game 4 Fri., June 7 Toronto at Golden State 9 PM
Game 5 Mon., June 10 Golden State at Toronto 9 PM
Game 6 Thu., June 13 Toronto at Golden State 9 PM
Game 7 Sun., June 16 Golden State at Toronto 8 PM
NBA Finals Odds
Golden State Warriors -320
Toronto Raptors +260
Golden State Warriors in 6