Updated: Feb 29, 2020
Well, here we are...2019 NBA Finals Game 1. Kawhi vs Steph, Drake vs E40 (or G Eazy for the millennial readers), Canada vs California. This is what it is all about. A team in the Finals for the first time playing against a team going for a 3-peat. The likes of which we have not seen since Kobe and Shaq (2000,2001,2002).
I, for one, am far more excited about this NBA Finals than I have been in a long time. Maybe it's the new blood, maybe it's the free agent shake-ups that are set to happen after the season is over, maybe writing this blog has given a renewed sense of excitement to the league. Who knows? All I know is that regardless of the outcome there will be some great history being made at the end of the series.
With KD officially ruled out, as I've mentioned, it is a great opportunity for Toronto to take a lead while also having home court advantage. Kawhi is playing like a machine and is going to be a mismatch on whoever ends up guarding him, whether it be Andre Iguodala who might.. just might be too old to guard him or Draymond Green who might be too slow to guard him or the guy sure to see the most reps against him, Klay Thompson - who I do not believe is strong enough to keep up with Kawhi for 40 minutes a night through this series. On the other side of the mismatch coin Steph should have a great series and finally get that Finals MVP trophy that has eluded him (Iguodala '15, Durant '17 & '18) - assuming they win. Kyle Lowry is a good defender for his size (6'1) but his with motor and overall speed, keeping him in Curry's pocket all night and all series given his, by NBA standards, advanced age (33 as of March 25th, 2019) might be a tall task, especially with Danny Green being preoccupied by Klay. The team defense is going to have to be on point.
Now, I know what you are saying; "Frank, Toronto beat Golden State both times they played them this year... it is going to be a great matchup, they know what they have to do!" Yes, yes they did. Game 1 was a very high scoring overtime win (128-131) and the second was 113-93. You're crazy if you think this is the same Golden State team Toronto saw in late 2018 in the beginning of the season when frankly, they probably did not care. They knew they weren't chasing another 73 win season... nor did they have to. An 8 game win streak and going 10-1 in their first 11 and losing 6 of 9 to close out the first 20 games of the season paints a picture of a team focused only on making the playoffs and handling business once they get there, a la LeBron James' "Playoff Mode" being activated. They are locked in, They are familiar with the territory and what is expected from this point on. For Toronto, adding Kawhi and Danny Green give Toronto something they did not have with DeMar... NBA Finals experience. That is invaluable, especially when you are going up against a team as experienced as Golden State. Toronto will need all the advantages they can manage for this series that will be sure to have something for everyone.
All will be revealed tonight and I will be back tomorrow with more on what actually happened.
Game 1 starts tonight at 9pm (6pm PST) on ABC.