NBA Finals: Warriors take on a Leonard-led Raptors powerhouse

The Toronto Raptors is the most complete team that the Warriors is set to face in the NBA finals. This is also its first ever NBA final appearance.

Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry will be hoping for 'three-peat' with Golden State Warriors.   -  Getty Images

Since the heroics of Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics in the 1960s, no team in the NBA had managed to make the finals five consecutive times in a row. That was until the Golden State Warriors did just that following a 4-0 sweep of the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals a week ago.

Warriors takes on Toronto Raptors, who have never been this far since its incorporation in the NBA in 1995.

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The formidable Warriors start as an overwhelming favourite to win its third consecutive title.

Despite a calf injury to star player Kevin Durant - who is expected to return during the course of the finals – the Warriors are better placed to “three-peat,” thanks to a strong bench of high pedigree players who can make up for his absence and a flexible system that can dominate without Durant at its apex.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have come good for the Warriors, scoring when it matters for the side.

Draymond Green has also been an asset to the outfit, bringing a stout defence, impeccable passing ability and vision in offence into his game plan.

kawhi leonard

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard holds up the Eastern Conference Championship trophy after Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee Bucks.   -  Getty Images

 

Andre Iguodala has a record of rising to the occasion in the playoffs for the Steven Kerr-coached team and the expectations will be no different ahead of Friday's finals. 

Add DeMarcus Cousins into the mix and it probably makes full sense to anoint the Warriors as the presumptive Champions. Raptors will be confident going into the game after Cousins was deemed fit on Thursday.

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Here's where Raptors' forward Kawhi Leonard enters the equation, giving naysayers enough to suggest that the final isn't as done and dusted as one presumes it to be.

Leonard has had an outstanding post-season, helping the Raptors beat two formidable Eastern Conference sides - the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The manner in which he shut down Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and then dominated the other end of the court with mid-range jumpers, dunks and assists was almost reminiscent of Michael Jordan in his prime.

Leonard has been a thorn in the Warriors’ path in the past, while he was playing for the San Antonio Spurs.

An unfortunate ankle injury in the Western Conference Finals in 2016-17 helped the Warriors brush past the Spurs with ease. Leonard will however seek vengeance in this go-around with Golden State.

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He will also be ably supported by a dogged Raptors squad which takes pride in its excellent defence and a will to face a marauding Warriors outfit.

In point guard Kyle Lowry, forward Pascal Siakam and center Marc Gasol, Raptors has an intelligent core that could defend against the likes of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Cousins. The luxury to turn Leonard on them will be a welcome one.

Toronto Raptors is the most complete team that the Warriors is set to face in the NBA finals and in this post-season.

It promises to be a slugfest and the result could just boil down to a Durant-Leonard showdown.