NBA Finals 2019: How the Warriors can complete a three-peat

Only four franchises have won three consecutive NBA Finals, so the Warriors have a chance to join a select group.

Golden State will appear in its fifth consecutive championship series, which begins Thursday against the Raptors — who are making their debut in the final stage of the postseason.

The Warriors have been here before and are considered favorites to win it all, but Toronto won’t go down without a fight.

What the Warriors need to do to three-peat:

Slow down Kawhi Leonard

No player has scored more points in this year’s postseason than Leonard. Warriors star Stephen Curry ranks second with a mark of 437, a whopping 124 fewer than the Raptors superstar’s total of 561.

The 6-8 forward is averaging 31.2 points per game and trails only injured Kevin Durant and James Harden in that category. Leonard is a threat to score inside and can create contact to get to the line, but that’s not where his impact stops.

Leonard has 159 rebounds in Toronto’s championship run, which ranks him third among all competitors. His relentlessness and instinctive maneuvers to pull down boards create second-chance looks for himself and his teammates. He needs to be located and boxed out on every possession, as he can make the opposition pay if he’s left alone.

If Golden State wants to limit the Raptors’ options, then it should start with Leonard.

Consistency from 3-point range

The Warriors have been this year’s top team percentage-wise when it comes to shooting from beyond the arc. They are converting 37% of their attempts from range, but they have been streaky at times.

Golden State has lost only four games so far in the postseason and they made fewer 3-pointers than their opponents in three of them. The Raptors have held opposing teams to just 31.3% shooting from deep and have proved to be elite when defending the perimeter. 

The Warriors normally have home court advantage to help them out of shooting slumps, but this time they’ll have to start off at a hostile Scotiabank Arena.

Quality minutes from reserves

Golden State’s rotation has deepened since its second-round series against the Rockets. The absences of Durant and DeMarcus Cousins have opened opportunities for players like Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and others to play more minutes.

While the Warriors may be hesitant to utilize 11 players like they did against the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, injuries could force them to be creative with lineups.

Raptors reserves Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell have been outstanding as of late. If they continue on their roll, then Golden State’s bench could struggle to match their production.

The Warriors have won three of the last four championships and could be on equal ground with some historic dynasties if they complete the three-peat. Game 1 of the NBA Finals will tip off Thursday at 9 p.m. ET (ABC).