In their quest for a third consecutive NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors will have to get through the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals.
For the fifth consecutive season, the Golden State Warriors have advanced to the NBA Finals with the chance to claim their fourth Larry O’Brien Trophy. Unlike the previous four runs, however, where they faced off against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, they will instead do battle with the Toronto Raptors, who will appear in their first ever championship round.
Toronto managed to claim both matchups between the two teams during the regular season, although they do little in providing any context for this upcoming series. In the first contest up North, neither Stephen Curry or Draymond Green were available, leading to a three-point overtime loss.
Less than a month later, the two met again in the Bay Area. This time, it was Kawhi Leonard who decided to sit out, although that didn’t seem to make a difference in what would ultimately be a 20-point victory for the Raptors.
Raptors starting center Marc Gasol wasn’t traded to the team until February and Kevin Durant suited up for both battles. KD has officially been ruled out for Game 1 on Thursday night and his status for the remainder of the series is still very much up in the air, although he is traveling with the team north of the border.
Not that his absence has affected the Warriors so far during these playoffs. Since he injured his calf in Game 5 of the second round, they have yet to lose a game, going 5-0 on their way to the NBA Finals.
However, with all due respect to both the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, Toronto poses a different type of problem. Riding high off a thrilling six-game upset of the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Kawhi Leonard is producing at both ends like the best player in the world on a team that managed to secure home-court advantage with one more victory during the regular season.
How this series turns out may have a lot to do with the health of the reigning two-time Finals MVP. The Warriors are still the favorites, as the two-time defending champions should be against a team with little Finals experience. Win or lose, this series will tell us a lot about this team as they sit just four wins away from their third straight NBA title.