Friday’s playoffs preview drives into the lane with NBA tips for Game 1 of the Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors.
11:00 (AEST), Fri 31st May @ Air Canada Centre
History: Played 45: Warriors 28 V Raptors 17
Last meeting: December 12, 2018: Raptors 113 d Warriors 93 at Oracle Arena
Final Thoughts: Toronto and Golden State are chasing history of different kinds heading into the NBA Finals. The Raptors are basketball’s biggest stage for the first time, while the Warriors are gunning for three straight Championships.
It’s been a remarkable post-season for the Raptors. They came from 2-1 down to beat the 76ers in seven games in the East Semi-finals, then overturned a 2-0 deficit by winning four straight against Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hot-favourite Bucks.
Kawhi Leonard has been at the heart of their charge. The former Spurs talisman has dominated the playoffs and overcame an injury-hampered couple of outings to produce 27 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists in the Game 6 victory against Milwaukee.
The Warriors have had 10 days off since blitzing the Trail Blazers 4-0 in the Western Conference Finals. With Kevin Durant sidelined, Steph Curry stepped up with 36-plus points in all four wins.
The defending NBA champs will be without Durant for Game 1 – meaning Curry’s influence will again be crucial to a winning start.
Leading into this season, Golden State were on an eight-match winning streak against Toronto. But the Raptors won both pre-Christmas encounters.
Leonard (37 pts, 8 reb) led the Raptors to a 131-128 OT win at home, despite Durant putting up 51 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. A Kawhi-less Toronto then hammered Golden State by 20 points in Oakland.
There’s a lot to like about a Raptors win first-up at home. They are 8-2 at Air Canada Centre in these playoffs, winning their last five straight.
But count on it going down to the wire with the Warriors well aware they are in for a massive fight to retain their title.