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NBA Finals

NBA Finals 2019: Breaking down the biggest matchups between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors

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2019 NBA Finals matchups (NBA Getty Images)

There will be no shortage of star power in the 2019 NBA Finals.

The Toronto Raptors are led by Kawhi Leonard, who his staking his claim as the best player in the league with one of the more dominant postseason runs we've ever seen. He's joined by five-time All-Star Kyle Lowry, three-time All-Star Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam - a finalist for this season's Most Improved Player award - as well as veterans such as Serge Ibaka and Danny Green.

For the Golden State Warriors, they have five multi-time All-NBA members in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. They're not as deep as they once were, but the Warriors still have the likes of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Kevon Looney coming off their bench, each of whom has plenty of experience playing in the Finals.

Before the Raptors host the Warriors for Game 1 on Thursday, here's a closer look at the biggest matchups of the Finals...

Point Guard

Kyle Lowry is going to have his work cut out for him in the NBA Finals. His matchup is Stephen Curry, who led all point guards in scoring this season with 27.3 points per game - unless you consider James Harden a point guard, in which case Curry finished second.

Curry has taken his game to an even greater level lately. Since Kevin Durant went down with a calf injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, he is averaging 35.8 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.7 percent from the perimeter.

Curry has scored 30-plus points in all five games Durant has missed and posted a 37-point, 13-rebound, 11-assist triple-double in his most recent outing.

What makes Curry a particularly tough matchup is that he can get his shot off in a variety of ways. It starts with his ability to shoot off the dribble and extends to his comfort operating off of screens, making him more of a combo guard than a "point guard." He's constantly on the move, which requires his defender - likely one of Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard - to be locked in at all times.

Lowry won't go toe-to-toe with Curry as a scorer, but he'll play an important role in the Finals as a 3-point shooter and facilitator. Kawhi Leonard is the only Raptor to have made more 3-pointers so far in these playoffs and Lowry averaged a career-best 8.7 assists per game in the regular season, tying him with John Wall for the second-most in the league.

When the Raptors are at their best, Lowry is doing a little bit of everything.

Shooting Guard

Both Klay Thompson and Danny Green are known for their 3-point shooting, but they go about it in slightly different ways.

For Thompson, he's led the league in scoring off of screens for four consecutive seasons - and potentially longer since the Synergy data only goes back to 2015-16. Similar to Curry, he's constantly in motion, running off of pindowns and stagger screens in search of the smallest of openings.

It helps that Thompson is 6-foot-7 with a lightning quick release, as he doesn't need much space to get off his shot.

For Green, his 3-pointers mostly come in one of two ways: in transition or off of spot-ups. With the amount of attention Lowry, Leonard and Siakam draw with the ball in his hands, he doesn't need to do much more to get open looks.

Green, however, has struggled with his shot in these playoffs. After making a career-best 45.5 percent of his 3-point attempts in the regular season, he's down 31.4 percent in his first postseason with the Raptors.

Green has at least proven himself on the big stage before, making 3.9 3-pointers per game at a 55.1 percent clip in the 2013 NBA Finals.

The Raptors might not need him to go supernova to beat the Warriors, but they'll need him to be better than he was against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, when he shot 4-for-23 from the perimeter.

Small Forward

The matchup everyone is waiting for - and the one we'll have to wait at least one game to see.

Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard rank first and third, respectively, in points per game this postseason. They can do it in every which way. Not only are they 3-point shooters, both from a standstill and off the dribble, Durant and Leonard are two of the best midrange scorers in the league.

With their size and length, they can shoot over just about any defender. It gives them a natural advantage in pick-and-rolls and isolation, two of their three most-used play types this season.

Durant and Leonard had it rolling in their only matchup with each other during the regular season. Durant scored a season-high 51 points on 18-for-31 shooting from the field, but Leonard led the Raptors to an overtime win with a team-high 37 points.

It was one of the more memorable games of the season.

With Durant ruled out for Game 1, Andre Iguodala is expected to start at small forward for the Warriors. Iguodala isn't the scorer he once was, but he still makes him presence known on offence. In addition to shooting 37.0 percent from the 3-point line in these playoffs, he's averaging 3.9 assists per game and ranks behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Leonard in total dunks.

Iguodala is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, capable of matching up with every position. He might be Golden State's best shot at slowing Leonard down. For that reason, expect him to be a huge part of Golden State's rotation whether he starts or comes off the bench.

Power Forward

Pascal Siakam has been compared to Draymond Green a number of times this season because of the versatility he provides in the frontcourt.

Siakam is coming off the best season of his young career, in which he averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He proved to be a solid 3-point shooter and a valuable defender, the culmination of which helped make him the front-runner for the Most Improved Player award and a contender for the All-Defensive Second Team.

Where Siakam thrives is in the open court. He finished behind only seven players in transition scoring this season, two being Giannis Antetokounmpo and Russell Westbrook.

Whereas Siakam brings more of a score-first mentality to the position, Green brings a pass-first mentality. He led all power forwards with 6.9 assists per game in the regular season and is up to a career-best 8.2 assists per game in these playoffs. The Warriors run a lot of their offence through Green, not for him to score but to set Curry, Thompson, Durant and Iguodala up in their sweet spots.

Green is even better on the other end of the floor. When he's locked in, he provides the best of both worlds - the rim protection of a centre combined with the switchability of a forward. He was an absolute monster against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, posting 2.8 blocks and 2.3 steals per game to go along with 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists.

Centre

There's no way of knowing which version of DeMarcus Cousins the Warriors will get in these Finals. He's questionable for Game 1, making it likely that he will play at some point in the series, but he's returning from a torn quadriceps muscle that, at the time of the injury, was expected to sideline him for the remainder of the season.

When Cousins is at full strength, he's one of the best centres in the league. He can punish teams in the post, knock down 3s and has developed into a solid passer. Prior to tearing his Achilles tendon last season, he was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

While we haven't seen that level of dominance from him in a Warriors uniform, Cousins can still make an impact in the Finals with his scoring and passing.

Gasol isn't a go-to scorer like Cousins, but he's arguably the second-best passer at his position and one of the best shooters. More than half of his shot attempts have come from the perimeter in these playoffs and he's made 40.0 percent of those opportunities.

Where Gasol has made his greatest impact is on defence. He shut down Nikola Vucevic in the first round, kept Joel Embiid below his season averages in the second round and helped the Raptors contain Giannis Antetokounmpo as a help defender in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Gasol might have a hard time staying on the floor if/when the Warriors go small - Golden State's "Death Lineup" will target him relentlessly in pick-and-rolls - but he matches up well with Cousins and their other centres.

Bench

The Finals features the second and third-lowest scoring benches in these playoffs, but both the Raptors and Warriors have players who have the potential to swing a game or two.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors got huge performances out of Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet. The Raptors wouldn't be in the Finals without them, as Powell provided a much-needed scoring punch in Games 3 and 4 while VanVleet went 14-for-17 from the 3-point line in the final three games of the series.

Serge Ibaka has also stepped up for the Raptors at times, most notably in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when he recorded 17 points and 13 rebounds in 24 minutes of play against the Philadelphia 76ers.

For the Warriors, Iguodala has been their biggest contributor off the bench, followed by Kevon Looney. Both could start in Game 1 if Durant and Cousins are unable to play.

Beyond them, Shaun Livingston, Alfonzo McKinnie, Jordan Bell, Jonas Jerebko and Andrew Bogut could each get minutes depending on what the Warriors need. None of them are big-time scorers, but they each bring something different to the table - playmaking from Livingston, 3-and-D play from McKinnie, speed and athleticism from Bell, shooting from Jerebko and rim protection for Bogut.

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