The Champions vs. The Underdog: BallnRoll’s 2019 NBA Finals Guide
On the surface, especially for a casual NBA fan, this may seem like a mismatch; a David versus Goliath.
On the one end, you have -arguably the most dominant NBA franchise in history – the two-time defending champion, Warriors, seeking their 4thtitle in 5 years. On the other end are the Toronto Raptors, making their first ever NBA Finals appearance.
While the Warriors are undoubtedly the favourites going on, and rightly so, this series may actually be more competitive than many believe. For starters, the Raptors actually won the season series 2-0, and finished with a better regular season record than the Warriors, giving them home-court advantage in the series. More importantly, the Warriors have, for the most part, been able to beat teams that excel and the offensive end, and have used their sheer talent and scoring power to come out on top. In the finals, however, they will go against the team that has played the best defense in the playoffs, coming of an impressive close-out against the Bucks, where they held the explosive Bucks offense to less than 100 points in the final 2 games.
NEW EPISODE ALERT! 🔥
— Pick-N-Pod (@pick_pod) May 29, 2019
An important variable is obviously the status of Kevin Durant. To be fair, the Warriors have not skipped a beat without him, and have actually played a more efficient and team-oriented style of basketball, seeing multiple guys contribute and excel. Again, against the Raptors you get the feeling that they may need Durant to get the job done. Even though they went 5-0 without him in the playoffs, if Kawhi is able to lock down Steph Curry (like he did, Giannis) then the Warriors will need Durant’s playmaking and scoring.
The other big question is how the Warriors handle Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks tried everyone from Malcolm Brogdon to Giannis to Khris Middleton on Leonard, but to no avail. The Warriors do seem to have quite a few options. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are All-NBA defenders, while Andre Iguodola and Kevin Durant are very underrated wing-defenders as well. I don’t expect Kawhi to put up the offensive numbers in this series, that he did against the Bucks, though at times he’s looked absolutely un-guardable.
I think the final major factor could be the battle of the benches/role players. Assuming Durant misses the first few games and Demarcus Cousins does not return, you basically have Iguodala, Looney, Livingston, Cook & McKinnie versus Gasol, Green, Van Vleet, Ibaka, and Powell. This may be an area where the Raptors have a significant advantage, especially with how well guys like VanVleet & Powell played against the Bucks.
At the end of the day, it’s the NBA finals and everyone wants a competitive series at least. I would be shocked if the Warriors swept the series and I expect the Raptors to come out playing freely, without any pressure, and to push the Warriors to the limit.
On a side note, it’s been a long time since LeBron wasn’t in the final…
Game 1: Thursday, May 30, in Toronto, 9pm
- Raptors take Game 1 with commanding win (118-109)
- Pascal Siakam (TOR) scores 32 points in the win, Marc Gasol (TOR) adds 20 points, while Fred VanVleet Sr. scores 15 off the bench
- Stephen Curry (GSW) scores 34 points in the loss
Game 2: Sunday, June 2, in Toronto, 8pm
- Warriors take Game 2 in a heartbreaker to tie series at 1-1 (109-104)
- Klay Thompson (GSW) and Curry combine for 48 points, Draymond Green (GSW) finishes with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists
- Kawhi Leonard scores 34 points, grabs 14 boards, but shoots an abysmal 2-for-9 from long range
Game 3: Wednesday, June 5, in Golden State, 9pm
- Raptors dominated shorthanded Warriors to take 2-1 series lead (123-109)
- Leonard scores 30 points, Kyle Lowry (TOR) adds 23 points and 9 assists in the win
- Curry scores 47 points
Game 4: Friday, June 7, in Golden State, 9pm
- Raptors take command of series, push Warriors to brink of elimination (105-92)
- Leonard scores 36 points, grabs 12 boards, while Serge Ibaka (TOR) scores 20 points off the bench
- Thompson scores 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting, Curry adds 27 points of his own
Game 5: Monday, June 10, in Toronto, 9pm
- Warriors survive in Toronto to force a Game 6 (106-105)
- Curry, Thompson combine for 57 points in the win, but Warriors lose Kevin Durant to Achilles injury
- Leonard finishes with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists
Game 6: Thursday, June 13, in Golden State, 9pm
- Raptors win series 4-2 (114-110)
- Lowry leads the way with 26 points, 10 assists, Siakam scores 26 points and grabs 10 boards, Leonard scores 22 points and Fred VanVleet (TOR) score 22 points
- Thompson scores 30 points, leaves with torn ACL, Curry scores 21 points