Hunger vs experience
NBA BUZZ - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - May 29, 2019 - 12:00am

In the last four seasons, the Golden State Warriors squared off with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA Championships, winning three. They are in their fifth consecutive run for the crown but they will have a new kind of competition against the Toronto Raptors beginning Friday.

The Raptors are a fairly successful franchise that was established in 1995 as part of the league’s expansion to Canada.   They qualified for the playoffs 11 times and had won the Atlantic Division title 6 times. The Raptors advanced to the Conference Finals twice and now are in their first ever NBA Finals appearance.  

Behind 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, Toronto won four straight games and eliminated the league’s best team, the Milwaukee Bucks, who were 10-1 in the playoffs entering Game 3.   Their dependence on Giannis Antetokounmpo backfired as the Raptors, one of the NBA’s top defensive teams, erected a solid wall every time The Greek Freak decides to penetrate.  There also were the puzzling instances in Game 6 when Coach Mike Budenholzer pulled out Giannis.

Down by at least 15 points in the 3rd quarter, the Raptors, behind Kawhi Leonard and an inspired support crew made a run and sustained their momentum until the end. Toronto’s singular superstar, with playoff per game averages of 31.2 points and 8.8 rebounds, will always shine but it was the cast around him that had made things brighter for the Raptors.  Leonard said it himself that everything had been a collective effort.  But it would need more than teamwork to topple a nearly unbeatable Golden State.

The Warriors are the heavy favorites to repeat as NBA champs and are playing like they had never missed Kevin Durant. Talks say that KD and DeMarcus Cousins might play at some point in the title series but Golden State, a ridiculously talented lot, looks okay without them.   Not to mention that they have three of the league’s best defensive players in Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Leading the Warrior charge will still be three-time champion and two-time league MVP Stephen Curry and he could win his first Finals MVP this time.

Toronto could have erected a border wall and prevented the Bucks to advance but the Warriors will find ways to go over or under it as they have so much championship experience and they thrive during big games.  Golden State likes to go small and could just run around roadblock.   Going small could also give Toronto a slight edge up front with Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Kawhi.

Vegas odds have the Raptors with a +260, meaning a $100 bet on Toronto will win bettors $260. The Warriors meanwhile are -320, you’ll only get $100 for a $320 Golden State bet. There is always the possibility of an upset and Kawhi just might have his second ring and another Finals MVP which he both won in 2014 during his time with the San Antonio Spurs.

The Raptors are hungry and ready to unleash their inner T-Rex on a meaty Warriors squad but Golden State has too much experience to fall prey to a rookie predator.

I always favor underdogs. The chances of Toronto getting their first league title are slim to none but as mentioned before, an upset is possible. If this happens, maybe #2 will not find the need to swim the free agency waters and continue to be a Raptor for a few more seasons.

NBA
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