Warriors or Raptors? Our consultants reply the large Finals questions

The Golden State Warriors face a brand new NBA Finals opponent for the primary time throughout this dynastic run.

How nicely do the Toronto Raptors match up with the defending champs? What are a very powerful issues to look at for every crew on this sequence? How possible is it that the Raptors push the Warriors to the brink?

Our consultants break down the issues they’re most excited to look at, make picks for the perfect participant within the sequence and predict the ultimate consequence.

Extra: NBA Finals preview | How Toronto acquired right here

1. What are you most enthusiastic about heading into this Finals matchup?

Jackie MacMullan: I am excited to see if Kawhi Leonard can proceed his postseason stealth mission and make this a sequence. What if the Raptors legitimately put a scare into the Warriors? Does it matter what they do by way of Leonard’s future with Toronto? The drama continues and can solely heighten as Leonard delivers extra clutch performances.

1 Associated

Brian Windhorst: I am hoping — possibly in opposition to all hope — for a protracted sequence after the previous two years. Though long-term I am optimistic about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s potential, for the time being, Kawhi Leonard is a extra developed weapon. He is the idea for hope in opposition to the Warriors’ championship machine. Having him because the foil provides the perfect likelihood for a aggressive sequence.

Jorge Sedano: We have now a contemporary, new matchup. We knew this was coming when LeBron James left the East, however it’s one other factor to lastly visualize it. Plus, for the primary time throughout Golden State’s run, the Warriors won’t have home-court benefit. How that can issue into the sequence is intriguing, and so is the teaching matchup. Steve Kerr’s legacy is already cemented. Nick Nurse is without doubt one of the extra attention-grabbing personalities teaching within the NBA, however he is additionally a helluva coach. The changes (and occasional gambles) he made through the Jap Convention finals paid off and acquired Toronto right here.

Tim MacMahon: Can Kawhi cap possibly the perfect mercenary season in NBA historical past by carrying the Raptors previous a dynastic crew? In that case, it might cement Leonard’s legacy as an all-time nice. He has been essentially the most dominant pressure to this point on this postseason, serving as an environment friendly go-to man and a lockdown defender and proving to be nicely well worth the value Toronto paid within the commerce for him, no matter his resolution in free company.

Kevin Pelton: Leonard lastly getting his likelihood in opposition to the Warriors. He was disadvantaged of that chance by Zaza Pachulia’s foot in 2017, and with Leonard taking part in maybe the perfect basketball of his profession, I am unable to wait to see him in opposition to Golden State — notably if we get Kawhi vs. Kevin Durant in some unspecified time in the future on this sequence.

2. What’s a very powerful factor to look at with the Raptors on this sequence?

Windhorst: Their supporting gamers — particularly Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet — should cobble collectively some consistency. As a gaggle, they tend to be boom-or-bust, and there is not any margin for error in opposition to Golden State. The opposite factor to look at is that if they will benefit from house court docket and get forward within the sequence. That has lengthy been a difficulty for this franchise.

Pelton: Whether or not Danny Inexperienced can rediscover his vary. Toronto beat Milwaukee regardless of Inexperienced’s taking pictures 19 % (6-of-32) from the sector whereas beginning all six video games, largely as a result of VanVleet changed him down the stretch. In opposition to the larger Warriors, taking part in VanVleet alongside Lowry will likely be tough. Inexperienced’s measurement is required to match up with Golden State’s wings, so the Raptors should get some contributions from him on the opposite finish.

MacMahon: How will the Raptors reply to the Warriors’ feared Hamptons 5 lineup? That is assuming Durant will get wholesome quickly sufficient to play a big function within the sequence. Can Gasol match up with Inexperienced at middle? For that matter, can Ibaka? We all know the Raptors can thrive taking part in massive. Can they succeed in opposition to the perfect small-ball lineup of all time?

MacMullan: The Raptors want to determine a constant contributor in addition to Kawhi within the half court docket. Will Danny Inexperienced ever hit one other three? He hasn’t knocked one down since Might 20 (he is Zero-for-Eight since), and it has gotten so cringe-worthy that Toronto followers groaned in pained unison with each miss in Sport 6 of the Jap Convention finals. The excellent news for The North is that VanVleet got here round simply in time.

Sedano: Can Kawhi proceed his present dominance? The Warriors can throw a ton of appears at him between Draymond Inexperienced, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant (ought to he return on this sequence). Undeniably, defending the Warriors is a very powerful factor. Nonetheless, if Kawhi continues to roll, Pascal Siakam retains ascending, Lowry makes Stephen Curry work on each ends and so they get well timed contributions from the remainder of their supporting forged, the Raptors could make this a sequence.

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Photographs

three. What’s a very powerful factor to look at with the Warriors on this sequence?

Pelton: How they combine Durant and/or DeMarcus Cousins in the event that they’re cleared to return midseries. Including such gifted gamers on the fly within the midst of a aggressive sequence is hard, however the Warriors have expertise with it, given the time each Curry and Durant have missed in previous postseasons. Final yr, Iguodala returned between Video games 2 and three of the NBA Finals. Golden State even managed such a transition with Kerr when he got here again to the sideline earlier than Sport 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals.

Discover every little thing you want to know in regards to the Finals right here.

• Schedules, matchups and extra
• 5-on-5: Largest Finals questions
• Warriors heavy favorites over Raptors
• What we all know and do not know
• What’s subsequent for eradicated groups? Insider

Sedano: Durant’s well being is clearly a very powerful issue on this sequence. If he is wholesome, it is most likely not very aggressive. If he is not, the sequence will likely be extended. As nice as Curry, Thompson and Inexperienced have been in his absence, the Warriors have outscored opponents by about 5 factors per 100 possessions over 440 minutes in these playoffs with that three-man mixture on the ground. That is not an enormous margin. They’ve gotten moments or minutes from Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook dinner and Kevon Looney whereas KD has missed time. They will want their mantra, “Power in Numbers,” to proceed to be greater than a slogan.

MacMullan: If I am Kerr, I am plopping Steph Curry within the entrance row of the movie room, splicing collectively a reel of his mindless, impulsive, ticky-tack, reach-in fouls, and forcing him to look at it. Twice. Toronto will assault Curry and pressure him to defend. He is no good to the Warriors on the bench.

MacMahon: Let me placed on my Captain Apparent cap: When Durant returns and the way he appears feels fairly vital. Go forward and level out Golden State’s outstanding success with Durant out and Curry within the lineup. The truth that the opponent contains a fellow former Finals MVP at small ahead makes this only a bit totally different.

Windhorst: About the one factor within the scouting report that appears to have an effect on the Warriors is bodily play. And, hear, it would not all the time work, and it is simpler mentioned than executed. However will probably be within the Raptors’ sport plan to assault the rim and attempt to bully Golden State as a lot as potential. Defensively, this implies tough play with Curry on the perimeter. In idea this works, however in apply, it is arduous to interrupt the champs’ rhythm.

four. Who would be the finest participant on this sequence?

MacMahon: Leonard has had the perfect general postseason, however no person is in a greater groove proper now than Curry, who averaged a cool 35.Eight factors with a 66.three true taking pictures proportion whereas the Warriors went 5-Zero since Durant went down. It stands to motive that the offense will nonetheless run by Curry even when Durant returns and tries to shake off rust with the stakes as excessive as potential.

Pelton: Curry. Taking nothing away from Leonard, the MVP of the playoffs so far, I believe the Warriors are higher outfitted to comprise him with Iguodala and maybe Durant than the Raptors are to take care of all the worth Curry supplies Golden State’s offense together with his playmaking and gravity. I additionally ponder whether in some unspecified time in the future the impact of fatigue and no matter occurred together with his leg within the final spherical will meet up with Leonard, who has performed 100 extra minutes within the playoffs so far than Curry and 66 greater than any Warriors participant (Klay Thompson is their chief).

Sedano: Curry. The 2-time MVP will get his alternative to place to relaxation the narrative that he underperforms within the Finals. I consider that stuff is overstated. He has averaged 27.three PPG whereas taking pictures 45 % from the sector, 41 % from three and 93 % from the road to go together with 5.9 RPG and 5.four APG in his 4 earlier Finals journeys. With Durant lacking time, this would be the prime alternative to place that narrative to relaxation. To beat a Raptors crew on a roll, the Warriors are going to wish each ounce of Curry’s greatness.

Windhorst: There are a complete bunch of MVPs and Finals MVPs and future Corridor of Famers on this sequence. From sport to sport, you will most likely see greatness in numerous shades in every single place. However just one crew has an MVP in reserve, which suggests the Raptors want Leonard to be nice for them to have a long-term likelihood.

MacMullan: Despite my warning concerning Curry’s funky defensive self-discipline, this seems like his alternative to earmark this sequence as his personal. He is on a tear, Kevin Durant is on the mend, and although Kawhi has been the perfect postseason participant so far, bear in mind the play from Sport 6 in opposition to Milwaukee on which he had a transparent lane to the basket, hesitated and opted to cross. He did that as a result of he is hobbled and would not possess his standard explosion.

5. Who will win this sequence and in what number of video games?

Sedano: As he has battled his personal playoff demons, Lowry has had some memorable performances on this postseason. Nonetheless, he has but to be matched up with somebody pretty much as good as Curry thus far. Couple that with the totally different appears the Warriors can throw at Kawhi, and I’ve Warriors in six.

MacMullan: I am taking the Warriors in six, however my respect for what Toronto has completed in these playoffs is immense. The Raptors are powerful, collectively, resilient, well-coached and unflappable. They got here again from 15 down twice to kick Milwaukee to the curb, and so they consider they belong right here. What extra are you able to ask?

Windhorst: I do not make predictions, however I might strongly advise the Raptors to not assume they will survive taking part in from behind early within the sequence once more. They survived being down 2-1 and 2-Zero previously two rounds, however I would not guess on pulling one thing like that off in opposition to this opponent.

MacMahon: I’ve acquired Warriors in six.

Pelton: Golden State in six. Even with out Durant, I believe the Warriors are able to incomes a break up in Toronto, placing themselves in place to shut out the sequence by successful three video games at Oracle Enviornment. Nearly as good because the Raptors have been defensively within the postseason, I do not consider they’ve sufficient constant scoring threats to maintain up with Golden State’s higher-octane assault.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *