BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on the 2019 NBA Finals?
ABS-CBN Sports on May 30, 2019 02:24 PM
NBAE via Getty Images
Here are the NBA Philippines bloggers' thoughts on the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors:
1) Are you surprised by the matchup of Warriors vs Raptors? Did you expect this at the start of the season?
Migs Bustos: Not surprised at all. I expected the Warriors to make it to the Finals, given that they can "turn on the switch" and because of their experience. In the East, I always believed that Toronto could make it since the start of the season, with no more LeBron James in the Cavs' lineup, the addition of Kawhi Leonard to the Raptorss. In the Milwaukee Bucks' case, I was not fully sold that they had a runaway Finals berth, given their inexperience and age.
Anton Roxas: Seeing the Warriors back in the Finals was something I expected but I can’t say the same for the Raptors. Team President Masai Ujiri rolled the dice and let go of Dwane Casey who was Coach of the Year, plus he traded away DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, whose health at the time was a huge mystery. He continued to push his luck in the hopes of changing the team’s fortunes by acquiring Marc Gasol and ultimately, the gamble paid off as Toronto is in the Finals for the first time franchise history.
Enzo Flojo: Golden State was an easy choice to make it to the Finals, but I honestly didn't expect to see the Raptors make it in their first season with Kawhi. For me, the Celtics were the best East team on paper, and the Bucks looked like beasts throughout the regular season. I ranked the Sixers higher, too, but kudos to these Raps. They made everyone witnesses to their meteoric rise, thanks to Kawhi's amazing postseason play and the emergence of Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell, among others.
Marco Benitez: The Warriors were almost a given for me coming out of the West. But to be honest, I never thought the Raptors had it in them. It was Celtics or Bucks at the start of the season. I guess that was until they got themselves a true-to-life Klaw.
2) How important is Kevin Durant to the Warriors' chances of another championship? Can they win another title without him?
Migs B: Numbers wise, the Warriors are a better team without him. They have a 31-1 win loss record this season without KD, including the five straight wins vs Houston and Portland to clinch the Finals berth. Stephen Curry is averaging MVP numbers, posting 35.8 PPG in those five games. Also, Draymond Green is again "empowered" as he averaged a triple double in games three and four of the Portland series.
But I agree with what Green said that it's ridiculous to think that they're a better team without KD. Yes, they naturally defer to him most of the time, but that is because he can put up shots consistently, create mismatches and cause headaches for the defense, and whenever the Dubs struggle and need a boost, Durant can always lift them up.
Case in point, both of the game threes of the past two Finals Durant was there to provide the daggers. As much as he fills the stats sheets, he also provides the intangibles that the Warriors need: length, size, space, defensive presence, mismatches. The Warriors still need Kevin Durant, especially to match up against the frontcourt of the Raptors.
AR: Kevin Durant is Golden State’s Get Out Of Jail Free card. Without KD, the Warriors lose that aura of invincibility. Yes, they can still win with their original, modern day, run-and-gun style of play, but the degree of difficulty moves up from Rookie to Hall of Fame.
EF: I believe the Dubs don't need KD to beat the Raptors in a seven-game series. His presence (and DeMarcus's) would help, of course, but Golden State is such a deep and well-coached team that they still have enough to beat Toronto despite not having homecourt advantage. I expect the OG Dubs -- Curry, Klay, and Draymond -- to reprise their Big Three roles and drive their squad to their 4th title in 5 years.
Marco B: Durant is still the best offensive player in the Finals, leading the postseason in scoring with 34.2ppg, and is probably the second best player in the world next to Lebron. With him healthy, the Warriors would be the odds-on favorite. Without him, as we've seen in the Portland series, they can still definitely win a championship, maybe just not as lopsidedly.
3) Aside from Stephen Curry and Durant, who will be the most important Warrior in this series?
Migs B: Draymond Green will be the most vital for Golden State. I liked their adjustment in their last two games where they sped things up. Draymond is the point and center. Whenever there is a change of possession or during inbound plays, he always makes sure to keep the ball moving. And when they get stops, most of the time he's the anchor on their fastbreaks. When the Warriors are on a roll and get at least one solid run, they'll pound you and make sure you don't get back up.
That will be the test for the Raptors, if they can keep up with the Warriors both on offense and defense.
AR: Klay Thompson. If this was Mobile Legends, Stephen Curry would be the Fighter, Kevin Durant would be the Assassin, Draymond Green would be the Tank while Klay would be the Marksman. The Marksman hurts you in ways you don’t even notice.
EF: For sure Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, if only because I expect they'll be the ones tasked to slow down Kawhi Leonard as well as Pascal Siakam. If those two forwards fail to consistently deliver the goods for Toronto, this may actually be a relatively quick series. If Draymond and Iggy aren't able to keep up with Kawhi and Siakam, though, then this could go the distance.
Marco B: The most important player outside of KD and Curry for the Warriors is Draymond Green. He's the motor that runs their defense, grabs the boards, and is their second best passer next to Steph on offense. Also, because defenses will be keying in on Steph-Klay-KD, what Draymond does with the ball when it's swung to him will dictate a lot of what they do offensively. Numbers-wise, he’s seen the biggest jump in scoring (7.4 to 13.6ppg), rebounding (7.3 to 9.9rpg) and assists (6.9 to 8.2 apg) in the postseason.
4) Aside from Kawhi Leonard, who will be the most important Raptor in this series?
Migs B: I'm betting on Pascal Siakam. He's still raw, yet very effective. He's tall and long, and no specific player has the same exact features (except KD who won't be playing in game one) that can guard him one on one on a consistent basis. A candidate for Most Improved Player, he's been averaging 18.7 points and seven rebounds per game. He won't be the first option, but expect Siakam to contribute significantly.
AR: Marc Gasol. Unless DeMarcus Cousins gets reactivated like The Mountain in Game of Thrones, I don’t see anybody on the Warriors who can match-up with the 7’1” former three-time All-Star. At 34, he may be past his prime, but you shouldn’t underestimate a man with that type of experience and knowledge of the game.
EF: Pascal Siakam may be the most tempting pick, but for me the guy who can really carry Toronto to the next level is Kyle Lowry. The 33-year-old playmaker has been inconsistent in the Playoffs, but if he manages to find a higher gear in the Finals, then anything can happen. He'll be hard-pressed to do that, though, given how he'll be tasked to defend Steph Curry and be one of the Raptors' primary offensive options as well.
Marco B: This will definitely fall on Kyle Lowry's lap. He'll be matched up against Steph and will have to run the Raptors' offense for majority of each game. His scoring, playmaking and especially his defense on GSW's guards will be relied on almost as heavily as Kawhi's.
5) Who do you think will win and in how many games?
Migs B: In all of the appearances of the Warriors in the past five years, this is the only time that they won't have home court advantage.
My prediction: Raptors and Warriors will split the first two games. Then, the Warriors can win games three and four at their home floor (Warriors have an 8-1 home record this playoffs, that's why chances are high), give game five to the Raptors (Toronto is 7-2 at home this playoffs) and the Warriors can close it out in six, at the Oracle.
AR: Because of the uncertainty regarding the health of the Warriors’ key players including Andre Iguodala, plus the fact that Toronto has home court advantage AND Drake, I think this series could go seven games. However, in the end, I still envision Golden State celebrating the first THREE-PEAT in the league since the Shaq-Kobe led Lakers.
EF: Golden State will win. All things considered, I think they're just too good and too experienced/steady at this stage of the postseason. Toronto is riding high on momentum from their ECF triumph and they do have homecourt, but even those won't be enough to stem the Warriors' tide. I have the Dubs raising the Larry OB trophy in Game 6 at home.
Marco B: With or without KD and Boogie at 100%, I'm still going with the Warriors in six games, and only because the Raptors have homecourt advantage. Toronto is the second best home team in the playoffs with an 8-2 record while outscoring opponents by 12.4pts per 100 possessions at home; while Golden State is the best road team in the playoffs with a 6-2 record, outscoring their opponents by 7.2pts per 100 possessions on the road in the playoffs.
Bottomline is this Warriors team is a generational type of squad, who are in their fifth straight Finals appearance (first since 1966). They have the talent and the championship experience to bag their third straight NBA Championship.
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