MANILA, Philippines – And then, there were two.
Although the Warriors obviously have the experience and wealth of talent necessary to pull it all off once again, they are treading through unfamiliar territories to kick off this year’s finals.
For starters, the opposition is different. For the first time in 5 years, Stephen Curry and crew will not face LeBron James nor the Cleveland Cavaliers for that matter.
And while the Raptors are nothing but hatchlings in the finals scene, they actually hold the distinction of sweeping the Warriors in their two meetings in the regular season – one being a 131-128 overtime win at the Oracle Arena and the other a 113-93 beatdown on their Scotiabank Arena home floor.
Speaking of Scotiabank, that’s where there first two games of this year’s finals will be held, just because Toronto won one more regular season game than Golden State. Also for the first time in 5 years, the Warriors will be the visitors to start off the culminating seven-game series.
As if losing Kevin Durant for Game 1 wasn’t bad enough, they now have to steal at least one game on hostile territory to retain the crown. Right now, however, first-year Raptor and former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has that place on lockdown.
It also helps that the entire country of Canada, right up to its Prime Minister, is rooting for the first-ever non-US team to win it all.
At least for now, the odds are leaning towards the challengers for the throne. But then again, there are reasons the reigning kings of the NBA have stayed at the top for quite some time now.
The teams are in. The stage is set. Who will draw first blood in the 2019 NBA Finals?
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