NBA Finals Preview
By Ashkan Motamedi
Well there will not be a Warriors Cavs 5th straight NBA Finals matchup. That was a given after Lebron went to the Lakers. This year gives us the Warriors once again coming off a sweep of Portland Trail Blazers .Going up against the Raptors in their first ever finals appearance after beating the Milwaukee Bucks. I offer a preview of this year NBA Finals along with a prediction of a winner in how may games.
How they got here
Warriors – The Warriors got to here by beating the Clippers in six games in round 1 despite blowing a 31 point lead in game 2. In a Western Conference Finals rematch from last year Warriors once again beat the Rockets this time in six games in the semifinals. In the Western Conference Finals against a familiar foe in the Trail Blazers. The Warriors came back from 3 double digit deficits in three straight games to sweep the Trail Blazers.
Raptors – Raptors began their playoff quest beating the Magic in five games after losing game 1 at home. In the semifinals against the 76ers brought one of the more memorable buzzer beaters in NBA history. With Kawhi Leonard cementing his place in Raptors history beating the 76ers in game 7 to advance. In the Eastern Conference Finals after losing the first two games to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors won four in a row to make history and go to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history.
Throughout the entire playoffs the Warriors have dealt with injuries. Kevin Durant is still out with injury and is unclear whether he will even play in the Finals. Demarcus Cousins is back for game 1 but it is unclear how healthy or how much he will used yet. Andre Iguodala, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are all dealing with nagging injuries. Raptors themselves do not have a lot of injuries outside of OG Anunoby who hopes to return sometime during the Finals. He will provide a much needed body for the Raptors bench.
Raptors knew it during the regular season in order to have a chance of beating the Warriors in the Finals. They needed home court and they have it need to use the crowd to their advantage. The Raptors know the Warriors have to win one game in Toronto and with it being the team’s first NBA Finals. The crowd will be loud and ready to support the home team which should be a fun atmosphere. They also have super fan Drake stalking the sidelines and being a distraction in his usual seats. You know Drake will be a big factor and storyline bringing his A+ troll game to the Warriors.
Danny Green and Fred VanVleet
Danny Green has been cold throughout the playoffs from three. It has come to the point where Nick Nurse has cut his minutes down and given it to Fred VanVleet down the stretch. In order for the Raptors to have any chance in winning this series. Green needs to show up and brake out of his slump by keep shooting and see the ball go in the net. Gree was 4/23 from three in the Bucks series. As for Fred VanVleet part of the reason why the Raptors are in the Finals is because of his hot shooting. VanVleet is the dark horse of the Raptors and in order for the Raptors to win the Finals. VanVleet need to keep contributing off the bench with his hot shooting to match the Warriors and give Leonard some help as well. They also need to match Klay Thompson as well behind the arc in order to outplay the Splash Brothers.
Leonard is the main reason why the Raptors are here. He has been dominant all postseason shooting 55 percent on long 2-pointers in these playoffs. He is one of the few players to hit contested, unassisted midrange shots and take over games down the stretch. Leonard has 561 points in this postseason sixth- highest all time total for a NBA player before the Finals. The Warriors offer tons of defensive looks at teams. Just like they took away Damian Lillard in the Western Conference Finals the Warriors will most likely try to limit take away Leonard by tapping and doubling him. They have five players capable of matching up on Leonard in Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, if healthy Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney. Whoever is matchup on Leonard will be the matchup to watch.
Steph Curry vs Kyle Lowry
It’s simple Kyle Lowry has to step up and limit Steph Curry and outplay him for the Raptors to be competitive in this series. Lowry was able to outplay Eric Bledsoe and will need to do the same with Curry despite being hurt. Curry has been playing like his MVP self since Durant injury and can change a game quickly by himself. Whoever wins this matchup will have a great chance of winning a championship. Lowry has a history of disappearing in the playoffs but averaged 19.2 points and 5.2 assists in the Eastern Conference Finals. Lowry might have to do more than that to upset the Warriors backcourt. This is his moment to outshine the splash brothers.
Warriors love to push the ball fast without Kevin Durant in there. You are basically looking at the 2015 Warriors team who make the extra pass and knock down shots at a fast rate. They can quickly erase big leads like nothing. The Raptors need to limit their turnovers control the tempo and the flow of the game to slow down the Warriors and make them beat them the hard way. If they want to have a chance they need to make Curry and Thompson work on defense tire them out and keep them for getting into a groove. The Raptors went on a 26-3 run to win the series against the Bucks. They need to be locked and on defense and keep their foot on the gas pedal at all times against the Warriors.
Under Steve Kerr the Warriors especially in this postseason have dominated the 3rd quarter after slow starts. Blazers series and game six of the Rockets series was an example of this. With the Warriors coming out hot out of the locker room and quickly getting in a flow either expanding a leads or erasing a deficit. Those 12 minutes will be an important one for Nick Nurse squad in coming out and matching the Warriors intensity out of the locker room.
Before winning four games in a row against the Bucks. The Raptors bench struggled without Kawhi Leonard on the court. In order for the Raptors to win the Finals when Leonard is out to rest the bench has to keep the Raptors either a lead or within striking distance. The same goes with the Warriors in just having their bench players give good minutes. Steve Kerr will most likely mix up his rotations with Cousins being back. However those stretches in the game where the starters need a break watch for this role players getting key points and contributing.
Pascal Siakam vs Draymond Green
This should be a great and fun matchup between the two sparkplugs of their respective teams. Both are forces on defense and are playing great basketball on offense expect these two to be at each other throats throughout the series. I’ll give the advantage to Draymond Green who’s is playing like his All-Star self since Durant got hurt. If Siakam starts hitting some of those corners 3s however he will be tough to guard if you have to close out.
The Warriors have been here before the Raptors have not it’s that simple. It could be a big underrated factor in this series. The Raptors will play hard and with emotion having home court. The Warriors will act like it’s just another game and taking care of business going back home. The Raptors will have to act like they have been here before and keep their composure in order to upset the Warriors. The Raptors also keep their foot gas pedal and keep attacking the Warriors with the chances they get. Once again watch for those runs the Raptors make and watch how the Warriors respond.
It’s going to be a great series and Kawhi Leonard is too good right now to get swept. However the Warriors will be way too much for Leonard to win this series. The Raptors get one at home but give me Warriors in 5 and another championship with or without Kevin Durant playing.