Warriors in 6
The Golden State Warriors were the best team before they got Kevin Durant, they are the best team as long as he is on the team, and they may still be the best team if he leaves. The number that speaks the loudest is that the Warriors are 31-1 when Stephen Curry plays without Durant. This includes the final game against the Rockets and their sweep of the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. Durant the reigning NBA Finals MVP in the past two seasons has been ruled out of Game 1, and likely will not return until the series shifts to Oakland for Game 3 at the earliest.
Of the five straight NBA Finals appearances that the Warriors have made, this will be the first time they do not have home court in a potential Game 7 and have to play the first two games on the road. The Toronto Raptors have been strong at home all year as they have an entire country behind them when they take the floor at Scotiabank Arena. Through the first three rounds, the Raptors are 7-2, including three wins over the Bucks after losing the first two games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Raptors success has been largely due to one man; Kawhi Leonard who may have taken the lead over Kevin Durant as the best of the upcoming free agent class. Leonard was acquired by Toronto in a blockbuster trade with San Antonio last season. After Leonard missed most of last season, the deal was seen as a big risk for the Raptors who sent DeMar DeRozan in return. Whether or not the Raptors can keep Leonard beyond the playoffs remains to be seen, but his performance this postseason has already made him a legend in Canada. If somehow the Raptors can convince him to stay and the Raptors win this series, he will be put on the same pedestal as World Series hero Joe Carter. Leonard is averaging 31.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in the postseason. This while showing why he is one of the best defensive players in the NBA as he helped shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo of the final four games of the Eastern Conference Finals.
It was a been tale postseason for the Golden State Warriors as Kevin Durant carried them until suffering a calf injury in Game 5 of their second-round series against the Rockets as he was averaging 34.2 ppg. Since then it has been like the old days with the Splash Brothers in the backcourt as Stephane Curry has been deadly from beyond the arch. If Curry can continue his torrid shooting, it will be very difficult to see how Toronto can stop the Warriors for collecting their third straight Larry O’Brien Trophy and fourth in five years.
The Raptors actually were able to sweep the Warriors in the regular season, winning two early season games. It was the first time that Toronto swept Golden State since the 2001/02 season, as they had not won in Oakland since 2004. In the first meeting in Toronto, Kevin Durant had 51 points without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, while Kawhi Leonard scored 37 as the Raptors won 131-128 in overtime. Leonard sat out the second meeting as Toronto got a big game from Kyle Lowry in a 113-93 win in Oakland.
For the Raptors to pull off the upset they will have to have so much go right, they will need Kawhi Leonard to play standup defense and average 30-10. They will need Kyle Lowry to be the big secondary scorer and find a way to keep Stephan Curry in check. They will also need Pascal Siakam to be big in the post and Fred VanVleet must be accurate from downtown. If any theses areas breakdown the Warriors will take full advantage and win again. There is a reason the Warriors have become a dynasty and that is they know how to finish a series. With the exception of the 2016 NBA Finals they lost after trailing 3-1, the Warriors have been the ultimate finishers in June. A reminder that a big reason the Cavs won that series as the suspension of Draymond Green in Game 5. Green this time of year becomes a different player, a defensive beast. Add in Andre Iguodala, coming off the bench and the Warriors have the perfect formula to win championships. Look for that formula to fuse together one more time as Golden State closes out their stay in Oakland in style, as they win an NBA Championship in the final game played at Oracle Arena.