On Monday June 10, the Toronto Raptors have the opportunity to make history. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for the Raptors up to this point.
Their season started with uncertainty, bringing in a player like Kawhi Leonard in place of DeMar Derozan, who did so much for the city.
While Leonard’s skill has never been questioned, this move prompted some doubt from Toronto fans, but here they are in the NBA finals up 3-1 on a team that is one of, if not the greatest basketball dynasty we’ve ever seen.
Toronto’s playoff run has been amazing watch. They outlasted Philadelphia in Game 7 of the second round off a buzzer-beater from Leonard and came back from down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference finals against the Bucks.
For The Golden State Warriors, their road to the finals seemed effortless. The defending champions only dropped four games before getting to the finals, as they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 4-2, the Houston Rockets 4-2 and the Portland Trail Blazers 4-0.
In their fifth trip to the finals in a row, this has proven to be Golden State’s biggest challenge yet. They find themselves down 3-1, heading back to Toronto for game 6.
When looking at this year’s NBA finals, there are many things to take into consideration. First, this would be a completely different series with Kevin Durant on the floor.
This does not mean people should discredit the Raptors, who have been very impressive on both sides of the ball this series. But Durant is a complete game-changer. With Golden State being down 3-1, they have absolutely no choice but to start Durant next game. If they don’t, they may be looking at a 4-1 series defeat.
With that being said, Golden State still has a heavy advantage when you look at each team on paper. The way some players have been stepping up for Toronto has made all the difference.
Everybody knows that Kawhi is going to get his points, but it’s been guys like Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Fred Van Fleet and Danny Green who have recently surpassed expectations, making this Raptors team a well-rounded threat on both sides of the ball. In fact, all of Toronto’s starters had at least 15 points in game 3 and they combined for a total of 106 points, which is the most from any starting five in any playoff game in franchise history.
While the Raptors have played as a cohesive unit throughout this series, Golden State was also without Klay Thompson for game 3. Thompson is obviously one of the best shooters in the league, but more importantly, he is one of the best defenders against Kawhi Leonard.
As we all saw, his absence left Curry with little to no help, and Curry’s 47 point effort was all for nothing. While there have been bursts of excellence from role players like Andre Iguodola and Quinn Cook, the Warriors have been ineffective without Thompson and Durant.
Even with Thompson playing in three games this series, and Draymond Green putting up near triple doubles every game, it has not been enough.
As Game 5 approaches, there are still questions to be answered, the most important one being whether or not Durant will see the court this series.
If he does, then this series is going seven games with the Raptors still coming out on top. If he is not back for game 5, then this series is over on Monday night.