Kevin Durant was ruled out for game 1 of the NBA Finals with the same calf strain he suffered against the Rockets in the second round. His injury is definitely more severe than the Warriors initially thought. Durant is traveling with the team to Toronto, but there is no guarantee he will play in game 2. The Warriors have been great, going 5-0 since Durant got injured.
With the Raptors in the finals, we get to see a healthy Kawhi face off against the Warriors again (without Zaza). Kawhi has been phenomenal this postseason, leading the Raptors to four straight wins against the best team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks. A team that lost back to back games once throughout the regular season. Giannis looked human against Kawhi, he was shut down, and forgot he is a top 2 MVP candidate.
So how do the Raptors match up with Golden State?
This ones obvious, Curry has the advantage over Kyle Lowry. Lowry has been good this postseason, overcoming his past playoff struggles. Even when Lowry is at his best, Curry on an average night is better. Curry is a better shooter and passer than Lowry, and he has the finals experience.
This one goes to the Warriors as well, Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters in the league and maybe ever. Going up against Danny Green, it will be more challenging than CJ McCollum who he went up against last round. Danny Green really struggles shooting the ball against the Bucks. But if he finds his stroke, him and Klay could match up very well with each other. Both great defenders and great shooters.
This one is going to Kawhi, especially with Durant still out. If Iguodala starts, Kawhi probably would switch who he covers throughout the series. We will probably see Kawhi cover Curry, Thompson, Durant/Iguodala, and Draymond. Even if Durant comes back this series, he probably won’t be 100%, and Kawhi won’t have to solely focus on him. And Kawhi will have to exert less energy on the defensive end with Durant out, letting him lead the way on offense.
Advantage Draymond. Pascal Siakam has been very good all season, but he is still young and inexperienced. Two traits that Draymond definitely will take advantage of. Siakam will succeed in mismatches but Draymond knows how to control the pace in the finals and get in the head of his opponents.
Bogut vs. Gasol. Marc Gasol is the more talented big man, but similar the power forward matchup, Bogut takes the experience. He’s been to the finals and won before. Gasol spreads the floor very well for the Raptors, something Bogut lacks. I think this matchup is going to be very even. Bogut isn’t as involved offensively as Gasol, but Bogut has experience not only in the finals, but also with the Warriors. This matchup is not a high profile one in this series. (If DeMarcus Cousins plays, he will win this matchup)
This one has to go to Toronto. Golden States bench consists of Alphonzo McKinnie, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook, and Jonas Jerebko. The problems with the Warriors, is there bench depth. Their starters have to play a lot of minutes, which can cause them to get tired of the Raptors can prolong the series. The Raptors had guys like Fred Van Fleet, Norman Powell, and Serge Ibaka help them to win last round. Van Fleet has played exceptionally well since the birth of his son, and if he keeps it up, his scoring could be key to the Raptors success.
This one has to go to Steve Kerr. Nick Nurse has never been here before, Kerr has been to the finals many times as a player and as a coach. Kerr has also had basically the same team for a few years, whereas Nurse’s team has 3 new starters from last year. They also swapped star players in Derozan and Kawhi, a very big move for the team. Nurse has to gameplan a way to slow down Curry and Thompson with Durant out.
So, the Warriors are probably going to win this series. A lot of people want the Warriors to lose because they keep winning. But I don’t see that happening. I would love to see Kawhi take down the Warriors, but he won’t be able to do it by himself. He needs the rest of his team to step up. The Warriors have the experience, and I think that is going to propel them to another championship.
My series prediction is Warriors in 6 games. And Steph Curry gets his first finals MVP.