Warriors seek more NBA history as Raptors hunt first title
While the Golden State Warriors try to cement their legacy as the NBA's greatest dynasty in half a century, the upstart Toronto Raptors made history just reaching the NBA Finals.
Tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) opener in the best-of-seven series will be the first NBA Finals game played outside the United States, the contest coming in the same Canadian city where the first league game was played in 1946.
Three-point sharpshooter Stephen Curry attempts to lead the Warriors to their third consecutive NBA title, a feat last achieved by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002, and Golden State could become the first team to win four crowns in five seasons since the 1969 Boston Celtics.
"Four more wins define our season and bring us a championship," Curry said.
"We have to stay locked in."
Golden State's five consecutive NBA Finals appearances is the second-best run in history, trailing only Boston's epic run from 1957-66.
"It hasn't been done for a reason. It's really difficult," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
"I can't say enough about the competitive drive of these players and the culture they have built. This group have a fibre about them. When guys go down, they find a way to play harder and win. The experience of having won titles helps you come through."
Blocking their path are a Raptors team powered by Kawhi Leonard. He has sparked a squad that were ousted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-offs each of the past three years, creating a breakthrough campaign.
"They are the champions. We've got to go in with mental focus and accept the challenge. We're in the Finals and we're not done yet," Leonard said.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse heaped praise on Leonard.
"He's just so good. I'm seeing a level of competitive greatness out of him. It's just competitive desire... It's just his willing us to win," Nurse said.
"He can create a shot out of nothing. He's a mismatch all around," Marc Gasol added of his teammate Leonard.
The Raptors will counter against Curry with Kyle Lowry and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Leonard unless Kevin Durant, currently injured, returns to change the dynamics for Golden State.
Before his injury nearly three weeks ago, Durant was in the midst of yet another dominant post-season run, averaging 34.2 points per game in 11 contests.
No matter how the series concludes, it could be the end of an era for both clubs with Durant and Leonard likely to be the top prizes on the free agent market by the end of next month. - AFP