“It’s kind of a mindf-ck.”
When the Warriors punched their ticket to the NBA Finals, Draymond Green uttered this very Draymond Green-ish quote about not going up against Lebron James for the fifth season in a row.
Instead, Green’s Warriors will match up against the Toronto Raptors, led by Kawhi Leonard, in pursuit of their fourth title in five seasons.
With Kevin Durant ruled out for Game 1 and possibly Game 2, Toronto has their best chance to get ahead in the series early, and force the Warriors to play from behind. Here are the key to the NBA Finals this year:
Oh my, Kawhi
Kawhi has kind of been like a Batman this postseason. Quietly, brilliantly disrupting the lives of the East’s best scorers while dropping 31.8 points per game against the Magic, 76ers, and Bucks. But now he’s got the Warriors- the guys who have won three of the last four finals, and have stopped LeBron in the past. Does Kawhi even stand a chance?
Short answer? Kawhi does. The Raptors? That’s another story. Even Draymond Green said it at Media Day yesterday- Kawhi is just different.
Even if Kawhi gets his 31 per game, Toronto is going to need a lot of help from their other guys if they want to beat the Warriors. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam need to continue to play the brand of basketball they have been playing, even though they’re going against multiple all stars. Long shot? Probably.
Warriors with Battle Wounds
With Kevin Durant out for Game 1, the Golden State will be rolling with the team that was able to complete the sweep of the Trail Blazers with ease. But the Raptors and Blazers are two different teams- one relies on heavy scoring from the back court, while Toronto uses a slower pace and defensive focus, at least against Milwaukee.
Without KD, the Warriors offense is going to roll through Curry and Klay, and you’d have to imagine Kawhi on one of those two. One off night from either of them, and the Warriors could be looking at their first loss since the Rockets series.
Not only is there Durant on a timetable to return, but Demarcus Cousins was listed as questionable in Game 1 after a quad injury in the first round. Now, no one really knows how Boogie is with Golden State. The sample size is too small. Adding a former all star to the lineup is never a bad thing, but this team has been rolling chemistry-wise, especially off of the pick-and-roll.
Will Cousins mess any of that up on his return? Is it going to be strange just throwing him into the NBA Finals- his first one ever- right off of an injury? Boogie is nothing but a question mark for Golden State, how he affects this finals roster will remain to be seen.
Doing it with Dray
Yesterday, Draymond refered to himself as the best defender in the NBA.
Whether he means it, or he’s right, we can all agree on one thing- he’s pretty damn good. And his mindset is right there with it, too. He’ll have the task, I assume, of guarding Leonard, especially on the inside. Draymond-Kawhi may be the most marquee matchup this series has to offer. If Draymond can handle Kawhi, and keep his head- we all remember his suspension late in the Finals in 2016 that cost the Warriors a 3-1 lead- Golden State should be able to relax.
The Raptors were blessed by a terrible regular season from the Warriors. Therefore, the first two games of the NBA Finals will be played in Toronto- Drake courtside and poutine and everything. With KD questionable for Game 2, the Raptors have a great chance to jump ahead in the series should they defend home court. However, the Warriors closed out both of their last series on the road- which should scare the Raptors a little bit.
It’s not a series until the home team loses. If Golden State avoids going down 0-2 in Toronto, they win this trophy with ease.
One of my friends said to me the other day- Lowry’s playing the best basketball of his life, Kawhi is virtually unstoppable on both ends, and Siakam is helping too... but I can easily see the Warriors winning in four games.
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