The following is based off of speculation only and contains opinions of the writer. It is that time of year again when the two best teams from the Western conference and Eastern conference of the NBA compete for the title of champions.
The 2019 championship series features the Western conference champs, the Golden State Warriors, and the Eastern conference champs, the Toronto Raptors.
The Warriors finished the 2019 regular season with a record of 57-25 and the Raptors finished with a record of 58-24.
As of June 2, the Raptors took home the win in game one while the Warriors won game two of the 2019 series.
The 2019 season marks the fifth year in a row that the Warriors have made an appearance in the finals. As for the Raptors, this marks the team’s first visit to the NBA finals.
According to NBA.com, the 2019 finals also marks the, “first time in NBA history that the championship series will be held outside of the United States,” per NBA.com staff.
During the regular season the two teams have only met twice. The first time the two teams met, the Raptors took home the win with a nine-point lead to win 118-109. The second time the teams met, the Raptors lost to the Warriors by a deficit of five points resulting in a 109-104 loss to tie the series.
Familiarity of each team is something both the Raptors and Warriors are going to have to take into account when facing each other in every game of the championship series.
Looking at both teams, each set of players brings something of value to the table.
The Warriors have been in this situation before, so emotionally the team is familiar with the mind set it takes to win the championship. Much of the offense of the Warriors relies heavily on passing the ball around to create open shots.
The Warriors frequently screen off of each other such as Stephen Curry (point guard) and Kevin Durant (small forward/ power forward) to create confusion only to find an open Klay Thompson (shooting guard/ small forward) ready for a three-pointer. Draymond Green (center/ power forward) plays a crucial role each night in racking up assists to his teammates as well posing another threat.
Due to an unlikely series of events, Durant injured his right calf against the Houston Rockets in game five of the second round of the 2019 playoffs.
The Warriors will need to rely heavily on their bench players who may not be expected to make open shots. A similar situation played out in game two of the championships when the Warriors Andre Iguodala (small forward/ shooting guard) closed out the win with a wide-open three. Sticking to their strategy of ball movement may be the key to defeating the Raptors.
The Raptors on the other hand have been to the Eastern conference finals several times but never to the finals where the stakes are at an all-time high.
The Raptors offense is strong but they have yet to handle an opposing offense such as the Warriors. In the Eastern conference finals, the Raptors had no problem against the Milawaukee Bucks who took the second-most-3 pointers in the 2019 regular season but could not pull through to beat the Raptors.
Therefore, the offense is going to have to rely on the rotation of points coming from all players including players such Kyle Lowry (point guard) who does not show up every night offensively. The Raptors also cannot always rely on big guys such as Marc Gasol (center) to drop 20 a night.
A major key player to the Raptors offense is Kwahi Leonard (small forward/ shooting guard). Leonard is averaging 30.9 points per game according to nba.com. Other players are going to have to help Leonard beat the Warriors. Pascal Siakam (power forward) is another crucial player to the Raptors offense with 19 points per game according to nba.com.
With an offense that may not hold up to the Warriors, one thing the Raptors have to embed within their system is a strong defense throughout the entirety of the series.
The Raptors are a team made up of very athletic and lengthy players, not to say the Warriors aren’t but the Raptors use this to their advantage. The Raptors can play big or small lineups, as they have proven all season long. They can handle chaos and switch screens. This is where their length plays a key in their defensive play.
They have the ability to guard up or down by defending guards or forwards with the rotation of Leonard and Danny Green (shooting guard/ power forward) or Lowry and Siakam doing the opposite. The Raptors key to winning is to avoid lackluster offense and keep the momentum going at both ends of the floor and running the Warriors out of transition.
As of June 6, the series is in the Raptors’ favor with a lead of 2-1 up on the Warriors.
Published By: Caitlin Srager