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The Toronto Raptors advanced to their first NBA Finals with a 100-94 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 27 points to lead his club to a fourth consecutive victory.
Raptors team president Masai Ujiri drew criticism because of the way he dealt forward DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in the blockbuster transaction to acquire Leonard. He also fired the 2018 Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey. Nonetheless, the new-look squad went through tough competition in the Eastern Conference with a new star and first-time head coach Nick Nurse to reach new heights.
The Raptors will go up against the Golden State Warriors, who are set to appear in the championship series for the fifth consecutive year, looking for a fourth title in that span. Will the defending champions open the matchup at full strength?
Before we go into the major storylines surrounding the upcoming series, take a look at the NBA Finals schedule, with the tipoff time and location for each contest.
2019 NBA Finals: Game Times and TV Schedule
Game 1: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors, Thursday, May 30 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 2: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors, Sunday, June 2 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 3: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 4: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors, Friday, June 7 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
*Game 5: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors, Monday, June 10 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
*Game 6: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors, Thursday, June 13 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
*Game 7: Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors, Sunday, June 16 at 8 p.m. ET ABC
*Game played if necessary.
Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins Statuses Unclear
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The Warriors may open the series without forwards Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. The former hasn’t progressed to on-court work during his recovery process, while the latter went through a scrimmage Friday, per ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell.
The Warriors’ official public relations Twitter released a statement that deemed Durant “unlikely” to suit up for Game 1 because of his strained right calf. He hasn’t played since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal matchup with the Houston Rockets.
Golden State didn’t need Durant to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in its conference final. Now, Steve Kerr’s group will face a resilient Raptors squad that erased back-to-back 14-plus-point deficits to the Bucks in their series, per ESPN Stats & Info. Without the star forward, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will continue to carry the scoring load.
Cousins isn’t listed as doubtful for Game 1. The Warriors would receive a boost in the frontcourt with him back in uniform, though he would likely play restricted minutes. The 28-year-old tore his left quadriceps muscle in Game 2 of the first round with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Andre Iguodala Hints Toward Retirement?
Is Andre Iguodala’s tank running close to empty? He recently talked about his NBA future with reporters, and the 35-year-old said his career “is almost over”:
While that’s not a definitive answer, Iguodala referenced playing through long seasons because of the championship runs, which may have taken a toll on his body. He suffered a left calf injury in Game 3 of the Warriors’ series with the Blazers and sat out for Game 4.
Since coming over from the Denver Nuggets during the 2013 offseason, Iguodala has played a vital role in Golden State—initially with the starters before moving into the second unit. It’s not just his scoring ability but his effort on the other end of the court. He stripped Damian Lillard late in Game 2 to seal a victory for the Warriors.
According to San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau, Iguodala didn’t practice Friday, but the team isn’t concerned about his status for Game 1. In the big picture, this series could be his last, but he’s undecided about what’s next.
Kawhi Leonard on a Playoff Tear
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It’s clear Leonard’s production drove the Raptors to the NBA Finals; he’s putting together one of the best postseason runs in league history, as ESPN Stats & Info highlighted:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Kawhi Leonard has 7 35-point games in these playoffs.
Over the last 20 seasons, the only other player with 7 35-point games before the NBA Finals? LeBron James. 3 different times.
Kawhi is having one heck of a postseason. https://t.co/M776kiudUv
Leonard has taken control of games on the offensive end, hit dramatic buzz-beaters and posed tough matchups as a defender. He had a hand in the Raptors’ plan to clog the lane and force Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to give the ball, limiting his drives to the hoop.
It’s often said teams need multiple stars to win championships.
The Warriors have arguably the best backcourt in Curry and Thompson, with do-it-all forward Draymond Green taking on more of the scoring load since Durant went down with a calf injury. The Raptors will match that trio with Leonard, Kyle Lowry and Most Improved Player of the Year candidate Pascal Siakam.
While Lowry seems a bit past his prime and Siakam still has room to grow, the Raptors bench may be able to help Leonard balance scoring with Golden State. Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet combined for 32 points Saturday.
Nonetheless, if Toronto has any chance at winning this series, Leonard must continue to post 30-plus-point games and neutralize a prolific scorer on the opposite end.