NBA Finals Thoughts And Predictions - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Sports

NBA Finals Thoughts And Predictions

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Posted: Monday, June 3, 2019 3:42 pm

The NBA Finals are finally here and start in Toronto Thursday evening. Of course the Finals are just the next brief sojourn in the NBA calendar, and is followed in close order by the NBA Draft June 20; June 24, the NBA Awards Show will air; July 1 Free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams; July 5-15, the NBA Summer League plays games at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas; and July 6, teams can begin officially signing free agent players, extending new contracts to players, and completing trades.

The NBA is second to only the NFL in the non-stop attention paid to their players and teams. Some might contend NBA Free Agency, which determines the new player power alignments and teams for the following year, is more interesting than the NBA Regular Season.

The Finals feature a team that everyone thought would make it in the Golden State Warriors, just not in their current configuration. And out of the Eastern Conference come the Toronto Raptors, who entered the 2019 Playoffs as the third choice to come out of the East behind the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.

SDSU Aztec product Kawhi Leonard leads a hard-playing, defensive-oriented club that can score when it needs to. Leonard is having a great playoffs and in 16 games Leonard is averaging 31.2 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game. The primary headliners for Toronto include Leonard, scoring guard Kyle Lowery at 14.4 points per game, 6.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds, and Pascal Siakam at 19 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Potential matchup problems for Golden State are provided by centers Marc Gasol, who is a fine long-range shooter and defensive standout Serge Ibaka.

Standing in their way when healthy, is probably the best offensive starting five in the history of pro basketball in guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and essentially three forwards in Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. Durant, who has a strained right calf has been ruled out of Game 1 Thursday evening and DeMarcus Cousins, who spent roughly half of the season starting at center in place of small forward Iguodala, is still being evaluated for his availability after sustaining a torn quadricep muscle April 15. At this point, if Cousins can neutralize Gasol on the boards and equal his scoring output, that would be a bonus for the Warriors.

Simply, if Durant (Playoff averages of 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists) can play during some portion of the series, he gives the Warriors a fourth prime scoring threat to go with Curry (27.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists), Thompson (19.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2 assists), and Green (13.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 8.2 assists). Durant’s presence will provide a larger margin for error for the Warriors as they pursue their third consecutive NBA title and fourth in five years. The Raptors might be able to devise a defensive scheme to slow Curry’s long-range shooting, and Durant would provide the counterpoint to that scheme.

Another factor is by the time the Finals start Thursday, the Warriors won’t have played a meaningful game since their May 10, 118-113 Game 6 win over the Rockets in Houston that clinched that series 4-2, nearly three weeks ago. Look for Toronto to win the first game of the series at home as Golden State will be a little out of synch due to their long layoff. Curry, Thompson and Green may need a game to get their shooting strokes back. Then look for the Warriors to come roaring back in Game 2. Since the Raptors won one more regular season game (58 to 57) this year than the Warriors, they have home court advantage in the best-of-seven game Finals.

The Warriors have four defenders who can slow down, but not stop Leonard in Kevon Looney, Green, Iguodala and Thompson. Look for Warrior Head Coach Steve Kerr to keep a fresh body in front of Leonard at all times, who has shown signs of not being 100 percent healthy, limping throughout most of the Raptors last series with the Milwaukee Bucks.

My prediction is the Warriors, with or without Durant, will win the series 4-2 for the simple reasons they have been there before, they’re focused, they have more talent, and they won’t be surprised by anything the Raptors throw at them on the court. There should be some hard-fought games with plenty of drama. Now if we can just get Drake a seatbelt and stop him from preening at mid-court, it could be a great series.

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