Last Updated: 2019-05-29
The 2019 NBA Finals start Thursday night when the Toronto Raptors welcome the Golden State Warriors at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada. The Raptors will make a debut in the NBA Finals, while the reigning champions Warriors are looking for their third straight championship and fourth over the previous five years. Toronto has won both head-to-head duels in the regular season, beating the Warriors 131-128 in overtime at home and 113-93 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. However, this is a completely different stage where the Warriors have far more experience than the Raptors, so we expect to see a great battle in the opening game of the series.
The Warriors will be without Kevin Durant (calf) who’ll miss the sixth straight game, and KD was the key player for the Warriors prior to his injury, averaging 34.2 points per game on 51.3% shooting from the field. DeMarcus Cousins (quad) is listed as questionable, missing the last 14 games, while all other players are ready to go. The Raptors will miss OG Anunoby (appendectomy) who will certainly stay sidelined for the first two contests in Toronto.
The Raptors are 1-point favorites at the moment with the total at 213.5 points and the Warriors at -105 money line odds. The Warriors opened as 1-point favorites, but the bookies adjusted the odds. Howsoever, don’t bother with a spread and take the money line odds instead.
What’s at Stake?
Toronto wants to defend home court in the opener which would be a huge relief for Nick Nurse’s boys. It would be a tough loss if they kneel at the start of the series against the Warriors who lost just one game in their previous two trips to the Finals.
The Warriors enter their fifth NBA Finals in a row, becoming the second team in the history to make such a feat, while the Raptors made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. This could be a huge factor, especially at the start of the series. The Raptors trailed 2-1 against the Sixers in the conference semifinals and 2-0 against the Bucks in the conference finals, so they will be under huge pressure on this one. Toronto is on a four-game winning streak, while Golden State has won six straight games.
The reigning champions will certainly miss Kevin Durant who was averaging 40.5 points on 58.5% shooting from the field along with 9.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in two meetings with the Raptors during the regular season. It seems the Raptors have to take advantage of KD’s absence if they want to stand a chance in this series. Steph Curry will lead the Warriors, and he was tallying 36.5 points per game on 47.1% shooting from the field and 42.5% from downtown. However, Steph will have a tall task against Kyle Lowry and Danny Green who are both good defensive stoppers. In his only meeting with the Raptors during the regular season, Curry scored just ten points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field.
Draymond Green was playing at the highest level against the Trail Blazers in the conference finals, averaging 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists a night while posting a triple-double in each of the last two games of the series. Green is obviously in the playoff mode and his defensive presence will be essential for the Warriors when they meet Kawhi Leonard. Andre Iguodala is another top defender who will take care of Kawhi, while Klay Thompson can also play solid defense at the perimeter.
Kawhi Leonard has had a tremendous playoff run so far. The Claw is averaging 31.2 points, 8.8 boards, and 3.8 dimes per outing while making 50.7% of his field-goal attempts. Kawhi is driving the Raptors’ offense, so Kyle Lowry will spend a lot of time off the ball. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Danny Green will all have to step up offensively, as Kawhi will have the toughest possible matchup against the Warriors. Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell will contribute off the bench, and the Raptors’ second unit needs to replicate its performance from the conference finals.
Another key factor for the Raptors will be their defense. They are allowing just 99.6 points this postseason on 41.7% shooting from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. On the other side, the Warriors are tallying whopping 117.3 points per contest on 48.7% shooting from the field and 37.0% from beyond the 3-point line. If they want to win the opener, the Raptors’ defense will have to be at its best.
Although they will play without Kevin Durant, I would take the Warriors to win Game 1. The Raptors are well-known as an underperforming team at the start of the playoff series, losing 15 of their 18 opening contests. On the other side, the Warriors are 18-1 straight up in their 19 Game 1s since 2015. Also, the Warriors are ridiculous 31-1 straight up in their previous 32 games when Curry plays and Durant is out. The Warriors lost their regular-season meetings with the Raptors, but they are 16-4 straight up in the last 20 head-to-head duels and 7-3 straight up in the previous ten encounters in Canada.
When it comes to the totals, I’m backing the under, hoping the Raptors will slow down the Warriors, while both teams should put on a strong defensive performance. The betting trends are not helping here, as the over is 10-6 in the Warriors’ 16 outings this postseason, while the under is 13-5 in the Raptors’ 18 showings. The over has hit in the last four H2H duels in Toronto and in seven of the previous ten H2H matchups overall.
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