- The Warriors were always the favorites to win the Finals, but circumstances have changed recently. Kawhi and the Raptors could give Steph and the Warriors trouble.
The Warriors and Raptors are set to square off in the NBA Finals on Thursday. While the Warriors have been favorites since the start of the year, there is some intrigue added at this point. Kawhi Leonard has carried Toronto to this point by playing at an all-time peak. On the other side of things, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala have both missed time in the playoffs.
Now, even without those two key cogs, Golden State has looked as unbeatable as ever. Stephen Curry is putting together his best case for NBA Finals MVP and the Warriors are fresh off a conference finals sweep of the Trail Blazers. The Crossover staff took all of this into consideration before making Finals predictions.
Chris Ballard: Warriors Over Raptors in 5 Games
Kawhi is at another level right now. In one season, Pascal Siakam has level-jumped and is a two-way future All-Star. Marc Gasol remains that guy you always want on your team, only now bombing away from deep. Toronto has momentum, and a great storyline and yet....we all know where this is headed. Steph will finally get his Finals MVP. Iguodala and Green love nothing more than the challenge of guarding someone like Kawhi. Klay Thompson, feeling slighted, will provide one of his classic Klay nights—35 points and 11 dribbles or something like that. In the end, the Warriors cohere through the noise and the dynasty lives, for one more year.
Chris Mannix: Warriors Over Raptors in 6 Games
I came into these playoffs believing no team could beat the Warriors four out of seven, and even with Durant’s injury, I still do. There is a path to victory for Toronto, but it includes Kyle Lowry playing Stephen Curry to a standstill, Danny Green breaking out of his shooting slump (and forcing Klay Thompson into one) and Kawhi Leonard being the best player on the floor. But Leonard can’t be everywhere against everyone and the Warriors will have an extra body with DeMarcus Cousins set to return—and Durant on the way. Someday, Golden State will be beatable. But not today.
Rob Mahoney: Warriors Over Raptors in 6 Games
This is the closest Golden State has come to an even series in the Kevin Durant era, and it’s in part because we don’t yet know whether Durant will play at all. That’s enough of a variable to give Toronto a real shot at the title, an incredible feat given where these franchises were a year ago. The reality, however, is that the Raptors would need a great many things to break in their favor to win—starting with Durant’s timeline and returning state—whereas the Warriors, even without KD, need only to be themselves. We know with empirical certainty that the players that Golden State needs to deliver are up to the task, largely because they have been for several years running. Fine players though they are, a bit too much hinges on Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Danny Green, and Norman Powell for my liking. There’s never much room for error in beating Golden State, which is why doing so four times in seven games can sometimes seem unimaginable. Toronto is good enough to imagine it, though perhaps not to pull it off.
Andrew Sharp: Warriors Over Raptors in 6 Games
The Raptors have enough weapons to push the Warriors and I thought pretty hard about picking the upset here. In short: Kawhi is out of his mind right now, Toronto’s size defensive versatility will test Golden State in ways that Portland and Houston did not, and Kevin Durant is out indefinitely. There’s room for this to get weird. Kawhi, in particular, is exactly the kind of player who can give the Warriors problems. He’s great in the halfcourt, he can control pace, and if the Raptors can successfully make these games ugly, he should be able to manufacture fourth quarter offense more reliably than anyone on either team. That’s the theory anyway. In the end, I can’t get there. I don’t trust Toronto’s supporting cast to score enough and I trust Golden State to make Kawhi look mortal for the first time in six weeks. Offensively, the Warriors probably won’t look as dominant as they did against the Blazers and Rockets, but they are not going to roll over like the Bucks.
That said: I really don’t know. We haven’t seen the current version of the Raptors for more than two months, and with KD’s status up in the air, nobody knows which version of the Warriors we’ll be getting for the majority of the next two weeks. Anything can happen.
Rohan Nadkarni: Warriors Over Raptors in 6 Games
The Raptors would maybe be favorites in this series if Durant were ruled out completely, but I think KD will return if things get dire for the Dubs at any point. Golden State’s health will be a factor in this series, but I just can’t imagine Durant will miss the entire Finals if the Warriors are in a desperate position. It’s also worth noting how well Stephen Curry has played over the last five games, and how Golden State could have a chance against Toronto even with Durant out. Kawhi has been on another level, but his largely one-man act will be much more difficult to pull off against a team as well-balanced as the Warriors. I’m basically not ready to bury Golden State. I still haven’t seen anything that would make me believe the Warriors aren’t the favorites we all thought they were coming into this season. I think KD’s run with this team will end with one final trophy.
Jeremy Woo: Warriors Over Raptors in 6 Games
I'm sticking to my original pick here. There’s a pathway for the Raptors to steal games, beginning with Kevin Durant’s health situation and ending with Kawhi Leonard, but I don’t know that it’s wide open enough for them to win four. The Warriors are in great form, have the advantage of extra rest, and more importantly, have the element of experience on their side. Maybe Toronto channels the 2016 Cavs, some weird stuff happens and the Raptors capitalize on having home court. But it’s still too tricky to bet against Golden State, particularly when they’re clicking. I can’t imagine adding Durant back into the mix will throw that big of a wrench into the process at this (extremely crucial) juncture of the season. It will take a transcendent series from Leonard for the Raptors to pull this off, and while that’s certainly within the realm of possibility, my gut says the Warriors do this again, before change comes this summer.
Matt Dollinger: Warriors Over Raptors in 5 Games
With LeBron finally out of the East, the Raptors rolled the dice this summer, realized their potential in the postseason, and knocked out the league’s soon-to-be-crowned MVP to make it all the way to the Finals. In other words, Masai Ujiri’s bet paid off. The catch? He never had enough bankroll to play at the high roller’s table, which is where the Warriors comfortably reside. Even without Kevin Durant (and DeMarcus Cousins), Golden State simply has too much firepower for Toronto to keep up. Homecourt advantage could allow the Raptors to steal Game 1 or 2 if they can grind the pace to a halt, but the Curry flurries, KD takeovers or Point God Draymond are only a matter of time. Kawhi’s hands are huge, but his shoulders can only carry so much, and the Warriors are simply too formidable of a foe.