For the first time ever the NBA finals will be played outside the USA when the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors go head to head in the first of the seven game series. Live coverage…
Steph Curry will be crucial to the Warriors chances of success in the absence of Kevin Durant
Dynasty versus dinosaurs. The Golden State Warriors’ road to a fifth straight NBA Finals has detoured to a new destination – and this one requires a passport.
The Toronto Raptors, a team that arrived in the NBA 24 years ago as the dinosaur-logoed basketball franchise in a hockey-loving country, have finally made it to the championship round and will host Game 1 on Thursday night (Friday AEST).
It’s the first time the finals will be played outside the US, a refreshing change after a record four straight seasons of the same match-up.
WHAT: Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
WHEN: Friday, May 31, 11am (AEST)
WHERE: Live stream on Kayo Sports
Stephen Curry lived in Toronto when his father Dell played for the Raptors at the end of his career, but otherwise it’s a new feeling even for these Warriors, who are one of the most championship-experienced teams in NBA history.
Besides facing a different opponent for the first time during their run, the Warriors won’t have the luxury of starting Kevin Durant for at least one more game, though none of that rattles a team that has played in 22 finals games in the last four years.
“We have been here before,” Curry said. “We understand the hoopla and the pandemonium around the finals and how different things are when it comes to just the schedule and the vibe.”
The Raptors are new to this stage, but their players aren’t. Kawhi Leonard was MVP of the 2014 NBA Finals, when he and Danny Green won a title with San Antonio.
Serge Ibaka made it to the finals with Oklahoma City in 2012, and even players such as Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol have played in Olympic finals. “It’s just the same basketball game,” Leonard said.
“It’s 5-on-5. It’s still two hoops. So you just go out there and play hard and live with the results.” The Raptors had already moved away from their purple uniforms with the red dinosaur, and their reputation as a loser is extinct, too.
They have won 50 games in four straight seasons and have the best record in the East over the last seven, but couldn’t get over the hump until this year, thanks largely to the acquisition of Leonard last summer.
He hit the winning shot in Game 7 of the second round and then led Toronto’s charge back from a 2-0 deficit against Milwaukee in the conference finals to win four straight against the team with the NBA’s best record.
They have made history just by bringing the finals to Canada and the doorstep of their rowdy fans in Jurassic Park.
STRONG STARTERS: Golden State has won 12 straight Game 1s, including all four in the NBA Finals since 2015, and Gasol was asked for Toronto’s key to getting the series off to a good start.
ROOKIE RUNS Steve Kerr won a championship four years ago in his first season as an NBA head coach and now Nick Nurse can do the same. He was promoted last year after the Raptors fired Dwane Casey, and earlier in his career had been a head coach in both the NBA Development League and the British Basketball League.
THREE-PEAT FOR NO. 3? Another title would be the Warriors’ seventh and move them into third place in NBA history behind only the Celtics (17) and Lakers (16).
100 PERCENT Curry, already the career leading in NBA Finals 3-pointers, needs two more to reach the century mark.
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