Below are USA TODAY Sports' staff picks for the NBA Finals, which begin tonight (9 p.m. ET on ABC) when the Golden State Warriors head to Scotiabank Arena for Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors.
Jeff Zillgitt: Warriors in 5 (Stephen Curry Finals MVP) – I’ll stick with my prediction I made at the beginning of the playoffs. Having covered the Raptors in the past two rounds, there’s no question they're playing solid basketball led by Kawhi Leonard’s exceptional play. But the Warriors have just too much firepower with Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the possible returns of Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. The Warriors have a firm understanding of their place in history, especially if they win this series, which would be their fourth title in five seasons and third in a row.
Dan Wolken: Raptors in 7 (Leonard) – Though it's much safer to pick the Warriors, especially coming off their tour de force through the Western Conference playoffs, the matchups here don't seem particularly awful for the Raptors. If Durant doesn't play or is limited in some way, it becomes much easier for Leonard to cause real problems defensively for Golden State and the collective intelligence of the Raptors will keep them in the series for at least six games. If they can somehow get it to Game 7 in Toronto, that becomes the biggest challenge Golden State has ever faced in this run.
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard holds the Eastern Conference Championship trophy. (Photo: Warren Toda, EPA-EFE)
- CLICK & ROLL: Sign up for our NBA newsletter for exclusive content, must-see moments
- DRAKE WHO? Meet 67-year-old Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia
- OPINION: Kevin Durant is all of us on social media, and he should never stop
- PLAYER RANKINGS: The best (and worst) players in the Finals
Josh Peter: Warriors in 6 (Curry) – The Raptors reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history is a feel-good story (well, at least in Canada). But the Raptors' lack of experience on the NBA's biggest stage will leave them unequipped to take down the defending champions. Leonard will help keep it interesting for Toronto, but this series won't go beyond Game 6.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch: Warriors in 6 (Green) – The Warriors are more talented and more experienced, but that hardly means we're in for another Finals sweep. Leonard has been the MVP of these playoffs, and if Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam can play like stars and Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell can keep up their hot shooting off the bench, this thing could get really interesting. Still, interesting doesn't mean the Raptors are going to dethrone the defending champs, especially with Curry and Green in top form.
Matt Eppers: Warriors in 6 (Curry) – With or without Durant, the Warriors have too much talent for the Raptors to stop, and Green playing some of the best basketball of his career takes Golden State to an even higher level. Leonard has been otherworldly in the playoffs, and he should again carry the load on offense for Toronto. But asking him to continue doing that and play lockdown defense against the Warriors’ array of shooters is a very tall task.
Source: Read Full Article