Now that the NBA Finals are set and it’s the Toronto Raptors that will be trying to take down the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the question of whether or not the Warriors can be beaten is arguably more legitimate than ever since this dynasty in Oakland started.
There’s a lot at stake here. Not just who will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy when this series is all said and done, but also whether or not this dynasty will come to an end when this season is over. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins are just a few of the names that could be donning different jerseys this Fall due to contract expirations.
With that being said, players are going to leave it all on the floor this series, the only problem is they have to be on the floor to be able to do that. Two of those three names mentioned are currently out with injury as Durant is out with a calf strain and Cousins is out with a torn quad.
Both are expected to be back on the court at some point in this series but it’s unknown as to when.
Therefore the Raptors have nothing but opportunity to seize when it comes to beating the dubs.
The Raptors have a lot going for them. They were 2-0 against the Warriors in the regular season, they’re coming off of a four-game winning streak against the league best’s Milwaukee Bucks and in addition to the Raptors’ best players playing well, the bench held up their end during the Eastern Conference Finals as well.
In particular, during the four games in a row that the Raptors won to eliminate the Bucks their bench outscored Milwaukee’s 142-115. They also averaged 24.7 APG, 110 PPG and 39.5% from behind the arc. All better than their regular season averages.
“It was a team effort,” said Danny Green. “Our bench was huge for us this whole series Fred, Norm, Serge, they were tremendous coming off the bench.”
Although the bench’s presence was felt, make no mistake about it Kawhi Leonard has been carrying the team on his back and having his way offensively. In the closeout game 5 on Saturday he had 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists. He is the first player to have that many points, rebounds and assists in a series-clinching win since Michael Jordan in 1991 (38 pts, 19 reb, 7 ast).
“It’s great. I worked so hard to get to this point with the season I had last year,” said Leonard. “Just always betting on myself and knowing what I feel and what’s right for me. I ended up coming here with a great group of guys, a lot of talent. I just strived with them everyday.”
This couldn’t be any truer. Going from playing nine games last season and being labeled as a guy who didn’t care about the game enough to now in his first year on a new team taking the team to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history it’s definitely been a turn of events. Not to mention a great story to tell, especially if they win it all.
However before doing so they have to go through the defending champion Warriors, who also are fresh off of a four game winning streak to get to the NBA Finals for the 5th straight year.
In the sweeping of the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals the dubs averaged 114.75 PPG, 57.0 RPG and 29.5 APG. All these stats were higher than their regular season averages, with the exception of their points. The Warriors were still able to sweep by scoring three fewer points per game.
It’s even more impressive that the Warriors went through this Western Conference Finals without one minute played by Durant and Cousins.
That might be a bit worrisome for the Raptors who might see one or both of those guys back on the court at some point during this series.
It’s also sort of alarming that Cousins wasn’t back from his Achilles injury yet when the Warriors had both contests against the Raptors in the regular season.
However the Raptors have a couple things working in their favor from their regular season matchups against the dubs.
The Raptors averaged 122 PPG compared to the Warriors’ 110.5 PPG.
Also in one of the matchups Durant scored 51 points and the Raptors still came out on top.
Needless to say the playoffs are a different animal compared to the regular season but it’s not like the Raptors are incapable of beating the defending champs.
So between now and Thursday all we can do is wait and certainly you’ll hear a lot stats previewing this matchup, but just know that this has all the ingredients of a close series.
If I had to guess I’d say the Toronto Raptors only win this series under a few conditions: Durant and/or Cousins play one game at best, the Raptors’ bench averages 38+ PPG and shoots at least 44% from behind the arc.