In a much anticipated NBA Finals matchup, Nick Ballistreri previews the series and makes his Game 1 pick in a series where the Warriors are chasing history with the status of Kevin Durant looming large.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be played at Scotiabank Arena, on Thursday May 30, at 9:00 PM EST. The game be seen on ABC.
Warriors vs Raptors preview
Here we go. There are so many storylines to talk about in this series. The Warriors made quick work of the Portland Trail Blazers in in the Western Conference Finals, sweeping the series 4-0 without who many consider the best player in the league, Kevin Durant. The Warriors are chasing history, plain and simple. They are on the brink of the first three-peat since the 2000-2002 Lakers, and the 6th all time. They have won 3 of the last 4 NBA Finals, with the only exception a 7 game loss to the LeBron James led Cavs in 2016.
The Toronto Raptors will be playing in their first NBA Finals ever. Their reward? The mighty Golden State Warriors. The Raptors advanced to the finals after dispatching the Milwaukee Bucks in 6 games, a series in which they were underdogs to Giannis Antetokounmpo and co. The Raptors fell down 2-0 in that series, looking out-coached, and short on talent. The series flipped when the games swung to Toronto, and the Raptors won 4 straight to close it out.
The Raptors have been carried by Kawhi Leonard, who is having a postseason that is unheard of unless your name is LeBron James. Leonard is currently averaging 31.2 PPG and 8.8 RPG. He has been battling injuries, free agency rumors, and the pressure to carry a team to the promised land in his first season there. What he is doing is nothing short of extraordinary. Kawhi has been here before. At the ripe age of 22, he was named Finals MVP after his Spurs beat the Heat to stop their pursuit of a three-peat. Nobody should be surprised by what he is doing, but the question remains: Can he do it with THIS team?
It doesn’t really seem to matter what happens to the Warriors. In Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, superstar Kevin Durant went down with an injury in the
late stages of the 3rd quarter. Since then, all the Warriors have done is go 6-0, including that game. They have battled injuries to their star (Kevin Durant), their big man (Demarcus Cousins), and their key role players (Andre Iguodala). They have battled the pressure of a dynasty, and the inevitable fall of every great team. It just doesn’t seem to matter. On the backs of their original big 3, the show goes on, and they knock down whatever opponent appears in front of them.
Game 1 is interesting. Because the Raptors had the better regular season record, they have home-court advantage in this series. News came out that while Kevin Durant may return for this series, he is ruled out of at least Game 1 with his calf injury. Toronto is riding the emotional high of their first ever finals appearance, and the Warriors have had over a week off due to their sweep. The Raptors may have the best player in this series (Leonard), but the Warriors have the cohesion, and something that should scare the Raptors more than anything. The Warriors seem like they’re having fun again.
To win this series, the Raptors need more than just Kawhi to be Kawhi. They need huge contributions from Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, who have never been to the finals before. They also need solid performances from their veterans, the ones who have been here before, namely Danny Green and Serge Ibaka. If the Raptors have to only rely on Kawhi Leonard, this series will be a short one.
The Warriors don’t seem to care that Durant is missing with an injury. They’re moving the ball better than ever, getting MVP performances from Steph Curry, and Draymond Green is playing like he was back when the Warriors first started their run. Coach Steve Kerr has been here before, and has slayed the one man who has stopped them before, LeBron James, 3 times before. Safe to say, the stage will not be too bright for these Warriors. It remains to be seen if the same can be said for the Raptors.
Warriors vs Raptors key series stats
● The Raptors won both of the meetings in the regular season
● Steph Curry averaged 36.5 PPG, 7.25 APG, and 8.25 RPG in the WCF
● Steph Curry and Draymond Green both had a triple double in Game 4 of the WCF
● Kawhi Leonard had 27 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 assists in the close out game
● The Raptors are 8-2 at home this postseason
● The Warriors are 6-4 on the road this postseason
Warriors vs Raptors betting lines
● The Warriors opened as 1.5 point favorites in Game 1
● Since then, the line has shifted to Toronto -1 at Sugarhouse
● 91% of the money is currently on the Warriors
Warriors vs Raptors Game 1 Spread Prediction
The oddsmakers have made this game essentially a toss-up, with the home Raptors currently a 1 point favorite. This line seems fishy to me. The Raptors are coming off an emotional roller-coaster after clinching the first Finals appearance in history, while the Warriors have had time to sit back and relax and soak it all in. The Warriors have been here before, and the bright lights of the stage will not faze them. Call me crazy, but if you give Steve Kerr 9 days to prepare for a team, I’ll take my chances over Raptors first-year coach Nick Nurse, who I may add is doing a phenomenal job with this Raptors team. I expect this series to be much closer than most, and the Raptors really have a chance to turn some heads with an opening win. I just don’t see it. Take the Warriors in this one, especially as an underdog at +1. This dynasty will keep rolling on in game 1.