NBA Finals 2019: Warriors vs. Raptors preview, prediction

The Warriors are set to play for their third straight championship while the Raptors have a chance to win the first title in franchise history when the NBA Finals tip off this week.

Golden State topped the Clippers and Rockets in the first two rounds of the playoffs before advancing to the finals with a sweep of the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals.

The Raptors, meanwhile, easily defeated the Magic in their opener and followed that by topping the 76ers and Bucks in seven and six games, respectively.

Warriors star Kevin Durant has not played since straining his calf in Golden State’s Game 5 win over the Rockets in the second round. He is expected to miss at least Game 1 but could return during the series. Golden State center DeMarcus Cousins also could be back at some point against the Raptors.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off Thursday at 9 p.m. ET (ABC) in Toronto.

Warriors vs. Raptors

Players to watch: Kawhi Leonard has been phenomenal for Toronto. He’s scoring 31.2 points and grabbing 8.8 rebounds in 18 postseason games this year. Backup guard Fred VanVleet struggled early in the playoffs but has since reached double-digit scoring totals in three consecutive games. Stephen Curry is once again playing at an MVP level for the Warriors. Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have seen their minutes increase with Durant and Cousins out. All three have provided sparks for Golden State.  

Stats to know: The Warriors have won five straight since Durant exited the lineup with the calf injury. They’ve beaten opponents by 8.6 points per game during that time frame. Curry has also taken his game to another level with Durant sidelined. He’s averaging 35.8 points and shooting 41.7% from 3-point range in the Warriors last five victories.

Hidden storyline: OG Anunoby’s health could be a major factor in this series. The 21-year-old wing underwent an emergency appendectomy in mid-April and has not played in the playoffs. But the Raptors “are quietly optimistic” Anunoby will return against the Warriors, according to the Toronto Sun. If healthy, he’s a versatile defender capable of guarding multiple positions and should help the Raptors match up more effectively with Golden State’s perimeter threats.

Odds: Warriors (-320), Raptors (+260)

Prediction: Warriors in six

Odds provided by Caesars Palace