Following the Warriors clean sweep against the Portland Trail Blazers after coming back from a 15+ point deficit in games 2,3 and 4; they are poised to win the championship for the third straight time. Finally when the Toronto Raptors finished a 4 game win streak and closed out the series against the Milwaukee Bucks in 6 after being down 0-2 and against all odds.
Golden State Warriors Vs Portland Trail Blazers
Entering this series there was speculation as to how the Warriors would be able to perform without Kevin Durant (out with a calf strain he suffered in the series vs the Houston Rockets in game 5 of the 2nd round). In game 1 it was a dominating performance for Golden State and they seemed to be in rhythm and stuck to their defensive game plan to limit the Portland star backcourt. The Warriors easily took care of business and did not face a real challenge until they seemed to struggle for the first 2 1/2 quarters for the next 3 games. Portland seemed to come out every game prepared and Head Coach Terry Stotts clearly had a great game plan. He allowed his backcourt to control the pace of the game and while they did a great job in this series it was the last 18 minutes of the game that they were taken out. Off of every single pick and roll that Portland tried to execute there were 2 Warriors players ready for them and would cause a blitz which forced the other Blazers to make a play. The obvious MVP of this series was Draymond Green, he took over the tempo of the game in each of the three comebacks. His leadership through pushing his teammates to new heights with the help of Steve Kerr was essential to their fifth straight western conference final victory. The determining factor of this series was bench production, there was not a name and number called up for the Warriors that did not perform at their absolute best. With 9 days of rest and possibly only Demarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala being fit for the finals matchup you can only wonder how they will perform without Kevin Durant.
Toronto Raptors Vs Milwaukee Bucks
The first two games of this series showed that Nick Nurse had no game plan for Mike Budenholzer and his ability to spread the floor. The key for Nurse was simple, he needed to find a way to stifle the Bucks offense with Giannis on the floor and he did it the one way he could. He chose the best defender in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard, to guard him and he was able to be very physical. Games 3 and 4 Giannis was very aggressive but ineffective which was the turning point in the series. 2-2 and it was anyone’s ticket to the NBA finals but unfortunately experience rose above all and Giannis did not step up. Giannis looked afraid on the court at times and every time he brought the ball down he hesitated. The Raptors bench showed up and showed out with Fred Vanvleet taking over the last two games. It was obvious Leonard was the better superstar and wanted this Finals trip more than the entire Bucks team. “The Klaw” played with his heart and soul the last 4 games and put the country of Canada on his back. Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors franchise and fanbase for their first appearance in the NBA finals!
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors
There is no doubt that the world believes the Warriors are going to win it all but without Kevin Durant, we seem to forget Leonard can now guard Stephen Curry and disrupt the entire Warriors offense. This will be a series that comes down to ball movement and teamwork for 43 minutes and then the last 5 minutes are time for the superstars to step up and close games out. Both respective second units will be in charge of keeping the momentum of the game going and either erasing a deficit or increasing a lead. The Warriors are one of the best teams in the league at scoring from the Mid Range area with Kevin Durant on the floor which is what creates the unstoppable offense that they have. Leonard was able to disrupt the entire offense of the Bucks by stopping the engine and if “KD” gets the ball and can’t produce then we have a series on our hands. I fully expect Golden State to try to live off of the pick and roll and have Toronto running around circles chasing their shooters around the court and on the screens.
Ultimately I believe the Warriors can put Toronto away but it may take 7 games but many believe this is ultimately a sweep and a one-man show. Toronto was a scary team during the last 4 games of the previous show and they seem to finally be working as one unit. They have also found their way as one team to continue to fight hard one possession at a time, not to mention they played their hearts out. This squad proved to the world that they can shut down your entire game plan and continue to pound and compile run after run, putting games out of reach. Toronto proved that they can close out games and were worthy of making this trip to challenge the greatest dynasty the sport has ever seen.
Kyle Lowry Vs Stephen Curry
Kawhi Leonard Vs Kevin Durant & Stephen Curry
Pascal Siakam Vs Draymond Green
Serge Ibaka Vs Demarcus Cousins
Toronto Bench Vs Golden State Bench
We have a great finals series ahead of us and it is one better than people are making it seem. Many great matchups to look out for and some great basketball for us to sit & observe. Pay very close attention because as a unit this is better than any Cavaliers team that has met the Warriors in the finals. Both teams have a great ability to adjust during the series as well as in the heat of the game; coaching will be a huge factor for this series and to determine the 2019 NBA champions. Finally, I predict the Golden State Warriors will win the series in 6 games and Kevin Durant will ultimately once again be the Finals MVP for the third straight year.