With a valiant comeback last night, the Toronto Raptors upset the Bucks to advance to the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors.
With a few days to catch our breath before the NBA Finals, let’s take a step back to see how the Raptors and Warriors arrived here. Well, I suppose we all know how the Warriors arrived here for a fifth consecutive Finals appearance: they’re stupid good.
Golden State dropped a couple games to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first-round, but the biggest loss was DeMarcus Cousins to injury. We did not get to see much of Cousins in the regular season anyway, so any scares about ball-movement and flow were non-existent. They did suffer a second-round injury though that had greater implications.
Losing Kevin Durant to a leg injury seemed to leave a window of opportunity wide open for the Houston Rockets. Anytime one of the best basketball players on the planet goes down, the team should suffer, right?
The Warriors reverted seamlessly to the team that was so dominant before the Durant days, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson whipping the ball around and splashing threes at a dazzling clip. Draymond Green looked the best he’s looked all season, stepping up his distribution and hitting timely triples. They swept the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals and have been resting ever since. KD’s health will be a big story in these Finals, though he expected to be available.
Toronto’s path the the Finals
After losing the first game of the Playoffs to the Magic, the Raptors rattled off four wins in a row to advance to face the talented 76ers. That wound up being a seven game series, with the Raptors riding the capable shoulders of Kawhi Leonard to victory.
Next up they faced the Milwaukee Bucks, that boasted an NBA regular season-best 60 wins. The Bucks took the first two games at home, but then Toronto turned around and did the same, taking their home games. With the momentum (and some poor shooting by Milwaukee), the Raptors turned their two-game streak into four, and now get a meeting with the reigning champs for their trouble.
This is the first Finals appearance in Toronto Raptors history.
2019 NBA Finals preview
The Golden State Warriors will be heavily favorited to win this series, especially if two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant is back to full strength. If he isn’t, they will still have three All-Stars in Curry, Thompson, and Green as well as Finals MVP Andre Iguodala coming off the bench to help defend Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard is a Finals MVP himself from his days playing for Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Kyle Lowry is an All-Star, but will have his hands full trying to keep up with a quicker player in Steph Curry. Perhaps the biggest advantage the Raptors hold is a more talented bench, led by Wichita State alum, Fred VanVleet, who shot lights out to close the series against the Bucks.
Toronto owns homecourt advantage too, but it will still be tough sledding with the difference in experience playing against a squad that routinely plays this deep into the Playoffs.
Below is the Finals schedule, taken directly from NBA.com:
Game 1: Thur, May 30, Golden State at Toronto | 9 ET (ABC)
Game 2: Sun, June 2, Golden State at Toronto | 8 ET (ABC)
Game 3: Wed, June 5, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
Game 4: Fri, June 7, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 5: Mon, June 10, Golden State at Toronto | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 6: Thur, June 13, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 7: Sun, June 16, Golden State at Toronto | 8 ET (ABC)
* – If Necessary
Golden State has a knack for making the spectacular appear routine, so all expectations are for them to hoist the Larry O’Brian trophy once again. Hopefully the Raptors can provide some magic and steal some momentum again in this series. The closer to a full seven games, the better for basketball fans, so that is the goal! For continued coverage of the NBA Playoffs and these 2019 NBA Finals, keep it locked to The Basketball Movement!