What a shock — the Golden State Warriors are at again. For the fifth straight year they devoured the Western Conference elite with a 57-25 record. For the first time since the 1957-66 Boston Celtics, the NBA has a franchise that has reached the NBA Finals five years in a row in pursuit of a third-straight title. It’s championship time: The NBA is poised to crown another World Champion.
The Warriors last year swept the Finals, beating Cleveland for the third time in four years. The Warriors this year beat the Los Angeles Clippers, four games to two in round one. They even blew a record 31-point lead in game two, which at the time had to give everyone the feeling that these Warriors could be had. But no problem: With Kevin Durant dominating, the Warriors beat Houston again four games to two.
Durant, however, injured his right calf late in game five, giving the Warriors a 3-2 lead after scoring 25 points. Folks, he has not played since. The question is, will the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP play in the Finals, which start Thursday in Toronto?
The experienced Warriors together leaned on their system, and with the great Stephen Curry and Draymon Green asserting themselves, the Warriors finished off the Rockets and swept a good Portland team 4-0.
Curry has caught fire, scoring 33-36-33-37-37 points in the last five wins. Green raised his game with three triple doubles. The Warriors have not skipped a beat. With their leadership, coached by Steve Kerr, experience, desire, system and talent shine through.
The Toronto Raptors made history in beating Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals. Trailing 2-0, the Raptors battled back and, behind the talented and determined Kawhi Leonard, beat the talented Bucks four straight games to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
The Bucks were the NBA’s best regular-season team, going 60-22 before the Raptors out-willed them. The Raptors were 58-24 in the regular season, and by virtue of their better record will have the home court advantage in Toronto against the defending champions. The NBA has never had their marquee event, the NBA Finals, outside of the United States.
Both teams are deep. The Raptors get after you defensively while the Warriors are explosive offensively. Both teams are ready and deserve to play for the World Championship. Durant’s injury and ability to play or not will be critical for the Warriors to win again.
The Warriors are trying to three-peat like Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago… Golden State next? The Raptors beat the Warriors twice in the regular season, first 131-128 on November 29. The game was a classic decided in overtime. Leonard had 37; Durant scored 51 points.
On December 12 the Raptors won again, 113-93. The Warriors score 117 points a game, the Raptors 114. The Warriors’ margin of victory is 6.5, the Raptors 6.0. This should be a great series. That’s why I love covering championships.
Last year the Raptors won 59 games and lost to Cleveland 4-0 in the playoffs. The Raptors traded for Leonard and added big veteran center Marc Gasol. They just beat the NBA’s best, the Milwaukee Bucks, winners of 60 games.
The Warriors have won six straight and the Raptors four straight. This series could go seven. The last time the NBA Finals went seven games, the Warriors did not win.