Game 1 Preview: Raptors vs Warriors
Golden State Warriors (0-0) @ Toronto Raptors (0-0)
When: Thursday, May 30th, 9 P.M. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Leading into tonight’s game:
- Injury report: For the Raptors, OG Anunoby (appendectomy) is listed as questionable. Jordan Loyd (coach’s decision) is listed as out. For the Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins (left quadriceps tear) is listed as questionable and Kevin Durant (right calf strain) is listed as out.
- The brightest lights: The Raptors will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Thursday night. This is the first time in franchise history that the team has reached the Finals, and it will be the first time in NBA history that an NBA Finals game is played outside of the United States. The Raptors enter the Finals after defeating the Orlando Magic in five games, the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games and the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. Golden State is in Toronto after defeating the L.A. Clippers in six games, the Houston Rockets in six games and the Portland Trail Blazers in four games to reach the Finals for the fifth consecutive season.
- Recent History: Much like Toronto’s regular-season series against the Eastern Conference Finals opponent Milwaukee Bucks, the regular-season series against the Warriors doesn’t accurately reflect the Finals rosters of these teams. Toronto was 2-0 against the Warriors this season, first recording a 131-128 overtime thriller at Scotiabank Arena all the way back in November, outlasting a 51-point, 11-rebound, six-assist performance from Kevin Durant. The Raptors were led by a 37-point night from Kawhi Leonard, 26 points from Pascal Siakam and a 10-point, 12-assist double-double from Kyle Lowry. Golden State was without Steph Curry and Draymond Green in the loss. The Raptors’ second meeting with the Warriors resulted in a 113-93 victory on the road, despite Toronto being without Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors still had five players reach double figures in the win, led by Kyle Lowry’s 23-point, 12-assist performance and a 20-point, 12-rebound night from Serge Ibaka. Kevin Durant led the Warriors in the loss with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Since these two meetings, the Raptors have added Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin, Jodie Meeks and Eric Moreland to their roster while parting ways with Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles, Delon Wright and Greg Monroe. An interesting roster note involving these two teams is that Warriors forward Alfonzo McKinnie appeared in 14 games for the Raptors last season, while Raptors forward Patrick McCaw was a member of the 2018 Championship Warriors.
- Play ball: Despite the stakes having never been higher, the Raptors seem to be taking their first Finals appearance in stride heading into Thursday’s Game 1. During Wednesday's media availability, Kawhi Leonard was asked about his first Finals experience. He said he remembers the anxiousness in wanting to get on the court to play during his first trip to the Finals and then settling in and knowing what to expect in his next trip there. “It’s just the same basketball game,” Leonard said. “It’s five-on-five. It’s still two hoops. So you just go out there and play hard and live with the results.” Teammate Kyle Lowry was on the same page as Leonard when asked about how he prepared for this moment. “Through my life in general, coming from where I’m coming from, this is basketball,” Lowry said. “No pressure, just basketball.”
- Points on the board: Coming into this series, both teams have had players put up huge numbers and performances in the postseason. For Toronto, Kawhi Leonard has been sensational in the postseason, averaging 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals in 38 minutes per game. Leonard is also shooting 51 percent from the floor, 39 percent from beyond the arc, and 88 percent from the free-throw line. He has scored at least 30 points 11 times in this year's postseason and at least 35 points six times. While Toronto has had a number of players step up in various games, Pascal Siakam has been the team's second-leading scorer in the postseason, averaging 18.7 points per contest. For the Warriors, Stephen Curry is averaging 27.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 37 minutes while shooting 45 percent from the floor, 39 percent from three, and 94 percent from the free-throw line. Leonard and Curry place third and fifth in postseason scoring averages. Though Kevin Durant will not play Game 1 of the Finals and has missed Golden State’s last four games with a right calf strain, no one has averaged more points per game than Durant in this year’s postseason. The Warriors forward has averaged 34.2 points per game in 11 postseason games played, shooting 51 percent from the floor, 42 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
- A new opportunity: The Warriors have spent the past four Finals playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers, so Wednesday's availability brought plenty of questions about the team facing a new Finals opponent. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talked about Toronto’s passion and love of the game, relating it back to watching Golden State's own Oracle crowd and the fanbase from his days doing television broadcasting before becoming a head coach. “I think the sense now is that as a team we can understand, we can feel how important this is to the whole country,” Kerr said. “It’s exciting. It’s great for the game.” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was instrumental in helping the team defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Though he's focused on the challenge ahead, he acknowledged the accomplishment of reaching the Finals for the first time in franchise history. "It's special," VanVleet said. "I think that this is what you work for. You work yourself to be able to perform at the highest level on the highest stage and here we are."