With the Toronto Raptors beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night, the Warriors’ NBA Finals matchup is confirmed.
The best-of-seven series will pair the back-to-back defending NBA champions against Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Drake (possibly) and a Raptors organization fresh off clinching the first Finals appearance in its 24-year history.
For the first time during their current five-year run, the Warriors will not have home-court advantage, and they could be without injured starters DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant at the onset of the series.
For now, here are the biggest things to watch heading into the series, which starts Thursday night in Toronto.
Projected starting lineups
F Andre Iguodala
F Draymond Green
C Andrew Bogut
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry
F Pascal Siakam
F Kawhi Leonard
C Marc Gasol
G Kyle Lowry
G Danny Green
The Warriors will be without Durant for at least the start of the series with a calf injury. Cousins, who began practicing with the team this week, could make his return from a torn quad in Game 1 if he continues to progress in his rehab.
Still, the Warriors have the healthy Splash Brother duo of Curry and Thompson, who combined to score nearly 57 points per game in the Western Conference finals.
Meanwhile, Leonard has been productive all postseason for Toronto, averaging 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 18 games. Following a breakout season, Siakam was a dependable second scorer in the conference finals. Lowry is a reliable regular-season contributor but has routinely struggled in the playoffs, and a thumb injury could hamper his production.
Edge: Draw (until Durant comes back)
Like the Warriors, the Raptors have struggled to get contributions from their second unit this season, finishing the regular season 24th in bench scoring.
The postseason hasn’t been much better for Toronto, which averaged just 25.1 bench points per game through the first three playoff rounds. Former Warrior Patrick McCaw signed with the Raptors midseason after declining an offer from the Warriors and having a brief stint in Cleveland. However, he’s averaging just 2.1 points per game across the regular season and playoffs.
With Durant out, the Warriors have gotten contributions from their bench. Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Kevon Looney have stepped up in particular, and all three will be counted on in the Finals.
Although he wasn’t nominated, Toronto’s Nick Nurse is putting together a Coach of the Year-worthy campaign. He helped guide the Raptors to 58 wins in his first season, despite Leonard missing 22 games.
Under Nurse’s tutelage, the Raptors finished with the league’s fifth-best offense, and he oversaw a defense that largely shut down Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals.
However, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has presided over the best six-year run in NBA history, and is on pace to win his fourth championship in five years.
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Warriors-Raptors-Preview-NBA-Finals-Matchup-510449611.html.