Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were operating at the peak of their powers to drive their side in the NBA Finals for the fifth season in a row.
The Raptors on the other hand have reached the Finals for the first time in the history of their franchise. Toronto were forced to battle past the Milwaukee Bucks and the leading contender for MVP this term Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Nick Nurse’s men fell behind in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Kawhi Leonard found his form to lead his team to four victories on the bounce to dump the number one seed out of the playoffs.
Leonard and his team-mates now have to rise to the challenge to defeat one of the NBA’s greatest dynasties of all-time. Golden State know that another crown would cement their legacy as one of the best teams in the history of the game – taking them into the echelons of the 1990s Chicago Bulls.
Golden State Warriors
There was a feeling before the Western Conference Finals that the Warriors could be vulnerable without Durant. The 30-year-old was absent after suffering a calf injury in game five of the semi-finals against the Houston Rockets. Curry and Thompson had been struggling with niggles of their own before the playoffs. However, both players were imperious to down the Trail Blazers. The duo were the foundation of the Warriors’ dynasty before the arrival of Durant.
The NBA was reminded that Curry and Thompson are superstars without the All-Star in and around the net. Curry scored over 35 points in all four games, finding his range from deep. He was able to control the series with his brilliance, manoeuvring the ball across the court and making Portland play every time he was left open.
Curry was not as potent in the matches against Houston, but he provided a timely reminder that he is one of the finest shooters in the history of the game. Thompson was efficient in his play, ensuring that Curry did not have to carry the Warriors alone.
He will have to remain at the level in the Finals, proving that he’s worth a huge contract extension that will be coming his way at the end of the campaign. Durant has been afforded time to heal up, but game one could come too soon for his return. Golden State have proved that they can cope without him on the court, handing the forward further time to recuperate. It could be vital if the Raptors are able to land a blow on Golden State.
The question of the campaign in the Eastern Conference was who was going to fill the void left by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? The Boston Celtics appeared well placed, but they were never able to rise to the challenge. Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers also had designs on the Finals, although they fell short as well as the Raptors dumped them out of the post-season.
Milwaukee and Giannis were the best team in the regular season, but when it mattered the most Toronto rose to take over the mantle. The club’s gamble to trade away DeMar DeRozan and their first-round pick to acquire Leonard has been a masterstroke. Leonard has been the player to rise to take over dominance of the East after LeBron’s departure. He has been everything the Raptors would have hoped for and more.
Leonard’s clutch play allowed his team to advance at the expense of the 76ers before he took control of the court for four games in a row to beat out the Bucks. The 27-year-old outplayed Giannis in the Eastern Conference Finals and is now set for a duel against the Warriors. He did play outstanding basketball against the Warriors two years ago for the San Antonio Spurs, only to suffer an ankle injury that ruled him out of the majority of the Western Conference Finals.
Golden State will be fearful of his ability on the court, being able to dominate on offense and defense. However, the Raptors cannot afford to let him carry them alone. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam have played their parts and need to continue in that manner in the Finals.
Head to Head
Games Played: 45 Golden State Warriors: 28 Toronto Raptors: 17
Historically the Warriors hold the edge over the Raptors, but that was not the case in the regular season. Durant was outstanding in the first meeting between the teams as he scored 51 points at the Scotiabank Arena, but it was not enough for Golden State. Leonard hit back with 37 points, while Siakam played his part adding another 26 to drive the Raptors to a 131-128 victory in overtime.
The second game between the sides was even more stunning. Toronto went to Oracle Arena without Leonard, but were able to put forward an outstanding display to secure the victory on the road. Lowry and Serge Ibaka both broke over 20 points, while Danny Green and Siakam also played their parts as Thompson and Curry had nights to forget. The regular season results will give the Raptors confidence heading into game one and the rest of the Finals.
The Raptors are in new ground having never reached the NBA Finals before in their history. There will be a lot of nerves flying about from the majority of the roster. Leonard has the experience and the quality to transcend the occasion. He was named Finals MVP when the Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in 2014, overcoming a talented roster. However, Curry and Thompson along with Green are playing outstanding basketball at the moment.
Back the Warriors to claim game one at odds of 93/1001.93-1070.93-1.070.93 with BetOnline to take the opening game of the Finals. The series should be a fascinating contest between two talented teams. The Durant effect could be decisive when he returns from injury. Golden State are an imperious outfit and should be too much for Toronto to overcome. Take Steve Kerr’s men at odds of 9/251.36-2800.36-2.800.36 at BetOnline to take the series and by a 4-2 scoreline at 5/23.50+2502.502.50-0.40 with TopBet.
Golden State Warriors To Beat Toronto Raptors Game One NBA Finals
Thursday 30th May 2019 21:00 ET (Friday 31st Mat 2019 02:00 BST)
Golden State Warriors To Beat Toronto Raptors NBA Finals
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