As we sit a couple hours from the start of Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals, there’s no better time than to go over some final things to look for in this series, namely X-Factors for each team, and to give an official prediction.
Read Part 2 here.
Raptors: Fred VanVleet, Guard
Fox Sports Asia
Fred VanVleet, Drake’s doppelganger, could be extremely influential on how this series plays out. He was absolutely lights out in the last 3 games of the Eastern Conference Finals (coincidentally, all those games were after the birth of his son). In those last 3 games, all Raptors wins, VanVleet was 14/17 (!!) from three for 82%, and put up 16 points per game on 68% shooting overall.
Much of this series will be decided by whether or not the Raptors’ depth shows up. The Raptors, I think clearly, have the deeper team of the two, and if the Raptors are able to make up deficits or extend leads while the benches are on the floor, they could make this a competitive series- and a lot of this will depend on whether or not VanVleet is able to continue his hot stretch of shooting.
Warriors: DeMarcus Cousins, C
Demarcus Cousins was just activated for Game 1 of this series.
Cousins definitely won’t be playing with his normal workload, and there is a chance he barely gets playing time, at least this game. He has to be out of shape after not being able to run for weeks, and he may be rusty as well. But at his best, and healthiest, I still believe he’s the best offensive center in the league. And if he is able to, even in limited minutes off the bench or whatever, provide a scoring boost to the Warriors when Steph Curry or Klay Thompson Thompson go to the bench, I think this will be too much for the Raptors to overcome. This season, the 6-time All-Star averaged 22-11-5 per 36 minutes, on around 50% shooting. If, again, Cousins is able to even replicate these stats playing 18-24 minutes a game, the Warriors will be too much to handle.
Coming into this playoffs, I believed it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Warriors were going to walk away with the title. However, after Kevin Durant’s injury, and Kawhi Leonard’s stellar play, among other things, I have talked myself into believing the Raptors could have a real chance at this series. Game One will be crucial to this series. If the Warriors are able to steal Game 1, I think this series will likely be over in 5 games. However, if the Raptors can hold home court, taking a 2-0 lead into Oracle, I could see this being a 7 game series. And if the series gets to 7 games, as anyone who watches sports will know, anything can happen in that deciding game.
All this being said, though, the experience of Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala (all in their 5th Finals) and Kevin Durant (in his 4th) is something that I think will push the Warriors over the top. That being said, this series should be more competitive than the last two Cavs-Warriors Finals, which is great for basketball fans. But my official prediction: Warriors take home their 3rd title in a row, in 6 games.