Warriors

Warriors

It's a good thing the Warriors got back into the groove of playing without Kevin Durant during the Western Conference finals because it looks like they'll be without him at least for the early portion of the 2019 NBA Finals. 

On Thursday, the team announced that Durant has yet to resume basketball activities and is "unlikely' to play at the beginning of the Finals.

After sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors have a week to rest before the title round begins in either Milwaukee or Toronto.

With the Bucks and Raptors locked in an all-out war for the Eastern Conference title, Warriors fans have been watching every minute of the East finals to figure out which team they would rather face when the Dubs pursue their fourth title in five seasons. 

Make no mistake, whichever team the Warriors face in the NBA Finals will be a much stiffer test than Cleveland Cavaliers were last year.

With Kawhi Leonard appearing hobbled following Game 3, the Raptors looked to be the weaker of the Warriors' potential NBA Finals opponents. But both teams will present significant issues for the Dubs when the lights are brightest, and Durant's inability to suit up might alter the Warriors' desired potential matchup.

Durant's early-series absence only further amplifies the danger the Warriors will face in the NBA Finals if the Raptors are able to advance past the Bucks. 

 

Even without Durant, the Warriors match up well with Milwaukee.

Milwaukee's guard play has fallen off as the Eastern Conference finals have drug on. The trio of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill, while reliable defensively, struggled in Game 4 at Toronto and would be horribly overmatched by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

While Giannis Antetokounmpo is an MVP candidate, the combination of Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and the Warriors' coaching staff should be able to find a way to make life tough on the Greek Freak, similar to the way the Raptors bottled him up in Games 3 and 4. 

Durant would be missed early on against the Bucks, but the Warriors could easily be able to weather the storm without him.

That might not be the case if the NBA Finals open up at Scotiabank Arena.

Facing the Warriors without Durant would give the Raptors the ability to have Leonard shadow Curry or Thompson instead of occupying his time hounding the two-time NBA Finals MVP. The ability to have Leonard, one of the best on-ball defenders in NBA, take out one of the Splash Brothers could greatly hamper a Warriors offensive attack without Durant. That also alleviates some of the defensive pressure on an aging Danny Green and a banged up Kyle Lowry. Toronto could have Leonard guard Curry, Green on Thompson while hiding Lowry on Iguodala.

Durant's absence also leaves the Warriors with one less defender to bother Leonard. Thompson has the capability of battling the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and Iguodala could battle him for stretches, but Durant's length on the defensive end is a vital tool that will be missing early on in the NBA Finals.

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The Warriors are likely to be without Durant and DeMarcus Cousins at least for the early part of the NBA Finals. While the Dubs have the talent to withstand those absences against no matter who the opponent is, a matchup with the Raptors sans KD would be a tough way to open the championship round.