Huff’s Hoops: NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee holds up the Larry OBrien NBA Championship Trophy after Game 5 of basketballs NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Warriors won 129-120 to win the NBA championship. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee holds up the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy after Game 5 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Monday, June 12, 2017. The Warriors won 129-120 to win the NBA championship. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Jarrett Huff

The NBA Finals have been decided with the Golden State Warriors taking on the Toronto Raptors. The Warriors defeated the Portland Trailblazers in four games, and the Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.

This will be the fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance for Golden State, while Toronto will be making its first appearance in franchise history.

Stephen Curry continued his impressive play in the absence of Kevin Durant, averaging 36.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists, along with 42.6% shooting from three. Curry outperformed fellow star point guard Damian Lillard in nearly every facet of the game.

Another encouraging takeaway from the series for the Warriors was Draymond Green’s stellar play through all four games. He struggled at times during the regular season, but has stepped up in the playoffs with Golden State missing several key bigs due to injury. Green averaged 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.8 blocks.

The major storyline to watch with the Warriors is injuries. Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Iguodala are currently listed as injured according to ESPN.

Durant is reportedly yet to return to on-court activities since straining his calf against the Houston Rockets. It is unknown when he will play in the Finals, or if he  is able to. This could be a major problem for the Warriors, despite their 31-1 without him, as Golden State plays their best ball with Durant on the court.

Cousins is reportedly healthy, but it is unknown if he will play in game one after recovering from a torn quad. Cousins previously missed majority of the 2018-19 regular season due to a torn achilles.

Iguodala injured his calf against the Blazers, but is considered probable to play in game one.

Assuming the Warriors will not be at full health, there is a chance that Toronto could become a legitimate threat, especially after their four straight wins over Milwaukee, neutralizing MVP-favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo in the process.

In the series against the Bucks, Kawhi Leonard continued his historic playoff run by lifting Toronto over Milwaukee after falling 0-2. He averaged 29.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.2 steals and 1 block.Leonard helped hold Antetokounmpo to 20.5 points and 43.5% shooting in the final four games, well below his season averages.

In his short playoff career in Toronto, Leonard has made the only game seven game winner in NBA history, defeated the first seed in the East, given the Raptors their first NBA Finals appearance and moved into fourth place on the Raptors’ playoffs scoring list.

The trade that saw former franchise player and fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan shipped off to San Antonio for a potential one-year rental of Leonard has paid off. The Raptors’ core had become stagnant with their potential growth after several bad playoff exits, many at the hands of LeBron James. Their series win over Milwaukee may have saved the team, and the possibility of resigning Leonard.

The key factor for the Raptors in this series is their defense and the adjustments head coach Nick Nurse will make to it. The Warriors will likely come out firing on all cylinders, regardless of the team’s health. If the Raptors start off the series trailing the Warriors, the adjustments Nurse will make to the defense will determine how far Toronto goes.

Major adjustments will have to be made especially when and if Cousins and Durant return to the lineup. Nurse has shown he is capable of making major adjustments, evident by the way he had his team defend against Antetokounmpo in the last four games against the Bucks. It helps that he has arguably the best defender in Leonard at his disposal.

This series should be slightly more exciting then the last two Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals, as having the Raptors in the Finals, the only Canadian team, is refreshing.

Toronto has a very talented roster, with superstar Leonard, All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, All-Star-like Pascal Siakam and former All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. While the roster has depth, they lack the offensive firepower and the amount of superstar talent that Golden State has.

If Golden State remains without Durant and possibly Cousins as well, Toronto could win the series, but it would take seven games. The likely outcome in this scenario would be Golden State in six.

If Golden State returns to full health, the Warriors will defeat the Raptors in five games.

While it will be sad to see Toronto’s historic run come to an end, it wouldn’t be so bad seeing less of Drake’s oncourt antics.