2019 NBA Finals

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2019 NBA Finals

Kurt Szymanski, Online Editor

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         After a long 82-game regular season and three previous playoff rounds, the NBA finals are finally upon us. This year, the Toronto Raptors are facing off against the Golden State Warriors in a best of seven series.

Raptors’ path to the finals

        During the past off-season, the Raptors made a lot of moves to bolster their talent for the chance to compete in the playoffs.First, they fired Coach of the Year, Dwayne Casey, and promoted assistant coach, Nick Nurse, to the head coach role. They also brought back important role player, Fred VanVleet, on a 2-year deal worth 18 million. The same day the biggest problem with the Raptors not making the finals was solved, superstar LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers.

        A couple weeks later, the Raptors made the biggest trade of the offseason. Star guard, DeMar Derozan and prospect, Jakob Poeltl, were traded to the San Antonio Spurs for superstar forward and defensive monster, Kawhi Leonard, and a solid backup guard in Danny Green.

        In February, on the day of the trade deadline, the Raptors traded starting center Jonas Valanciunas, role players C.J. Miles and Delon Wright to the Memphis Grizzlies for past all-star Marc Gasol. This move gave them more of a veteran-centered starting lineup and more overall playoff experience.

        With these upgrades in the lineup and LeBron James leaving, this gave Toronto the perfect opportunity to make the finals. Although the Raptors lost an additional game compared to last season, they pulled off owning the second-best record in the NBA, only behind the Milwaukee Bucks.

        The Raptors first faced off against the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs, they won the best of seven series in five games. Next, they took on the star-studded Philadelphia 76ers led by star center Joel Embiid, they won the seventh game off a buzzer beater from Kawhi Leonard. They went on to embarrass the Bucks in six games and advanced to their first ever NBA finals.

Warriors’ path to the finals

        The Warriors also made moves during the off-season to improve their already unbeatable team to new heights. Superstar center Demarcus Cousins was signed during free agency to a $5.3 million contract that only lasts for this season. This move gave the Warriors a solution to the only spot they were lacking in talent, if one can even consider they were lacking talent.

        Prior to the signing however, Cousins tore his Achilles last season on the New Orleans Pelicans. This injury diminished his value for free agency which is why the Warriors signed him for so cheap. Cousins returned half-way through the Warriors season in game 46. His production over this season isn’t his usual, but it’s enough to take some of the load off the other Warrior players.

        The Warriors finished with the third best record in the NBA, and the best record in the Western Conference. Their finish was no surprise as the Warriors have had the best record in the conference for the past five seasons.

        Entering the playoffs as the favorites they first faced off against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors cruised through the Clippers in a six-game series and barely slid past the Houston Rockets in far more close games compared to the Clippers. The Portland Trailblazers got manhandled in a four-game series that saw the Warriors making the finals yet again.

The Finals

        This NBA finals is special in many ways, if the Warriors win it all they will assert their dynasty status that has been put into question after they blew a three to one game lead in the 2016 finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the Raptors’ first time in the finals which means it’s the first time finals games will be played in Canada. This finals appearance has brought all Canadian basketball fans into unison from Vancouver to Montreal.

        The Golden State Warriors are favored to win over the Raptors according to many basketball analysts such as Shaquille O’Neal, Jalen Rose, and Stephen A. Smith. But that doesn’t mean the Raptors don’t have a chance to win.

        Superstar Kevin Durant is questionable to return to the series as the calf injury he received has no exact time frame that can warrant his return. Klay Thompson, another important catalyst for the Warriors, left game two of the finals early with a left hamstring tightness. These injuries might lead to the Raptors having enough talent to overpower the Warriors and win their first Championship.

         The Raptors will win the championship, only if they play the best they’ve played and Thompson, and Durant may stay injured during the rest of the series. So, with the long 82-game regular season, will the Raptors finally win their first NBA championship? There’s only one way to find out.