The Toronto Raptors are 1 win away from securing their maiden title. The Warriors, trying to win a 3-peat since the Los Angeles Lakers, are seemingly in disarray. Kevin Durant has been out for a month. Cousins who returned after an early playoff injury is rusty. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors have stepped up when it matters the most.
Until their 4-win run against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals, Toronto relied on 1 man. Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors cast were poor, especially in their 7 game series against Philadelphia. They finally started to show up. Lowry has become a good guard in the post-season. Siakam has become the 2nd major scorer in the finals for the Raptors. Fed vanVleet is leading the defence on curry and providing crucial scoring off the bench.
Golden State: Unlucky
The Warriors are aiming to be the first team since the Shaq-Kobe Lakers to win a 3-peat. Considered to be one of the greatest NBA dynasties, the Warriors won 322 out of 410 regular season games. They are the only team, other than the 1960s Boston Celtics to make 5 consecutive finals.
In the off-season, the same core that swept its way in the NBA finals, added DeMarcus Cousins. The talented big man fell in Game 2 against Los Angeles Clippers. Kevin Durant would fall in game 5 against the Houston Rockets. While Cousins has returned to the active roster, he still is showing a lot of rust. The availability of Kevin Durant, the Warriors leading scorer for Game 5 of the finals is questionable. Even if he does return, with over a month out injured, there will be rust. In the end, the drafted all-star trio of the Warriors have to play a 150%. Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry are the only ones who can save their season.
Toronto Raptors: Final mode.
Toronto Raptors announced their title credentials this season when they signed Kawhi Leonard, trading their franchise player, DeMar DeRozan. Throughout the playoffs, he has been the outstanding player. The Raptors finally pulled it together in the Finals. That’s where it counts.
Marc Gasol has improved his scoring and defensive prowess. It’s why he was traded for. Pascal Siakam showed why he is a contender for the MIP award. Perhaps the biggest kick needed was Fred vanVleet. Since the birth of his son, he’s produced strong performances off the bench. In the finals, he has been an excellent defender on Steph Curry. In Game 4, he held Curry to 9-22 from the field, including 2-9 from downtown.
As a team, the Raptors have been responsive. Whenever any of their playoff opponents went on a scoring run, they replied in kind. They have always been in the game. Crucially in the finals, they are shooting with a high field goal percentage, 3-point and free-throw shooting. They are forcing the Warriors into more turnovers, while not committing as many turnovers.
Game 5: Ending a dynasty?
Game 5 is in Toronto. If the Raptors win, they will win their maiden NBA title on their home court. Warriors players are planning to play as if Durant is not returning. The signals coming from the training staff at Golden State, indicate he isn’t likely to play. The Warriors dynasty would likely end after this series, as Kevin Durant is moving out. Toronto will also hope, this run will convince Kawhi to re-sign with them in Free Agency.
There’s still hope. In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down in the NBA finals to beat the Warriors. The Warriors themselves had to come back from 3-1 down to beat Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals that year. It’s not impossible, but the odds are stacked against Golden State.