By Valerie Uy
For four straight years, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have faced each other in the NBA Finals. But for the first time in the Finals, the Warriors face unfamiliar ground. How did we get here? We break down the key story lines as we look ahead to the NBA Finals:
The LeBron James Effect
During last year’s NBA off-season, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James shook the NBA with his Hollywood move to the Los Angeles Lakers. The King of the Eastern Conference for almost a decade, LeBron has represented the East in the NBA Finals for eight consecutive times. As the famous NBA saying goes, nobody comes out of the East without going through the King.
LeBron’s move to the Western Conference opened up a power vacuum in the East. As for his first season in the West, his efforts were not enough to send the rebuilding Lakers to the Playoffs. And to put this in perspective, the last time he missed the Playoffs was thirteen years ago in 2005 – Apple had yet to release the first iPhone, and we still had DVDs instead of Netflix. This also means that our Fenty Queen, Rihanna, wasn't the LeBron superfan that she is now at that time either.
Oh, Canada: Kings of the North, The New Kings of the East
The Toronto Raptors are the only NBA Team outside the USA. They had quite an interesting off-season which involved acquiring one of the league’s top five players in Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. The Klaw, as Leonard is often called, proved himself in his first season with the Raps: in a dominant playoff run, they bested MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors–Bucks Game 6 was historic: it’s the most watched basketball game in Canadian history, and the Raptors booked a ticket to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. After years of falling to LeBron James’ teams, they are finally ready for the NBA’s biggest stage.
Fans will also be seeing a familiar face: Drake. The OVO founder and Canadian native is often seen cheering for his beloved Raptors, and has caused courtside headlines, the last of which was when he got into a fun beef with the daughter of the Milwaukee Bucks’ owner Mallory Edens (P.S. she’s quite a headturner, too!)
The Warriors Dynasty: A Last Run?
Even since the Golden State Warriors (A.K.A. the Dubs) exploded into the scene with their sweet shooting death lineup, they have dominated the NBA, winning three of their last four Finals appearances. This season’s Warriors started five boasts of a formidable lineup led by Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, complemented by Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins. Between these players, there are multiple NBA awards (including the MVP), All Star Selections, Olympic gold medals… the list goes on. As expected, the best teams in the West fell to Golden State, and they booked their Finals ticket after sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers–against Steph’s younger brother, Seth. Talk about good genes!
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But all good things must come to an end. Multiple player contracts are expiring this year, and the NBA’s salary cap rules do not guarantee that the Warriors get to keep their all-star lineup next season. Will this be the last run of the Warriors’ dynasty?
The 2019 NBA Finals: #DubNation or #WeTheNorth?
The Warriors are heavily favored to complete a three-peat, and most experts predict the series will be over in 5 or 6 games. That being said, this title run is also their most challenging, with injuries to back-to-back Finals MVP Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. Both players may return during the course of the Finals, but the Curry-Thompson-Green trio has successfully picked up the load so far. This will also be the first time that they do not have homecourt advantage in the Playoffs.
The Raptors however, are not content with just being in the Finals. Kawhi Leonard has won an NBA title, and is universally regarded one of the best lockdown defenders in the NBA. He is also an offensive threat, along with All Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol will also come in handy in stopping the Warriors offense.
While the odds favor Golden State, the Raptors are fan favorites. Many people are actually hoping that their historic run will end in an NBA title, finally toppling the Warriors dynasty.
As for Drake? The Warriors are focused on the court, not off of it. As per Draymond Green, “Drake can’t shoot. Nor can he pass. You ever seen Drake play basketball?”
Catch the NBA Finals Live on ABS-CBN Sports+Action.
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