By Sam Norris
Last Updated: 3rd June 2019
Golden State Warriors are the team to beat again, but the Raptors’ golden boy Kawhi Leonard can ensure Toronto take them all the way in the NBA Finals.
Tedious inevitability or breath-taking sporting achievement? Either way the Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals looking for a fourth win in five years and the odds compilers see them turning that achievement in to another title.
After a gruelling 82-game regular season, followed by three of best-of-seven series, it all comes down to one final race to four wins to seal the silverware.
Golden State’s group of perennial all-stars are well versed in the rigours of the NBA Finals but there will be fresh faces involved this year as the Toronto Raptors reached their first ever NBA Finals.
Durant absence could swing pendulum towards Toronto early in the series
The Warriors emulated the Boston Celtics in becoming only the second team to make it to five successive NBA Finals with a series sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.
This means that they have had a full 10 days off to rest up ahead of a clash with Toronto, who rallied from two games down to beat the Bucks in six.
Despite this extra rest time, Kevin Durant remains sidelined for at least the first two games of this series having missed time in the series sweep over Portland.
He’s arguably the jewel in the glittering crown that is the Warriors’ roster and his absence could give Toronto the edge early in the series, particularly as they have secured home court advantage thanks to two wins against the Warriors during the regular season.
Regular season wins don’t always mean a great deal in the context of play-off basketball, but playing the first two games in Toronto, is a big boost for the Raptors.
The city has been in party mode since they beat the Bucks, the atmosphere should be electric – they’re 20/23 to win game one and could make a fast start.
Kawhi Leonard has been the star of the show so far and there can be little argument he’s been the best player on any team during the post-season and he’ll be at the forefront of Toronto’s plans as they try and turn a first finals appearance in franchise history in to a first win.
He’ll be a key man in keeping this series close as he looks to build on his average of 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 50.7% shooting accuracy in the post season.
The Warriors nous should see them over the line in the end
Dynasties in US sports aren’t designed to last forever and this could be a swan song for a Warriors unit that resembles a fantasy basketball team at times. Durant may well be heading to pastures new in the off-season and this series does have an ‘end of an era’ feel to it.
That could serve as extra motivation for this team of elite champions and their collective experience on the biggest stage of them all may well be enough.
Even without Durant the Warriors still boast the likes of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who have all contributed in a big way in this post-season and they should be able to see this out and win three titles in a row for the first time since the Lakers at the turn of the century.
Despite the Warriors being the overwhelming favourites, expect Kawhi and the Raptors to make them work for it. The series to go all seven games and the Warriors to win 4-3 is 11/2.