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Toronto Raptors Cheat Sheet: What You Need to Know Ahead of the NBA Finals

For those who know nothing about basketball...

WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE! The Toronto Raptors have made it to the NBA finals for the first time ever in their 24-year history, and it seems the city has never felt more excitement than right now.

In case you didn’t tune in this past weekend (although it’s highly unlikely, given the clips of fans stampeding down Bay Street and celebrating on top of streetcars making the rounds online), the Raptors advanced into the NBA Finals after winning the Eastern Conference Finals title over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Full disclosure: My knowledge of basketball is extremely limited (save for the fact that I’m three inches shorter than NBA retiree Muggsy Bogues), but I’m a great hype man and I love being in on fun. So if you, like myself, know NOTHING about basketball (or the Toronto Raptors) but totally want to partake in the playoff festivities, here’s what you need to know:

They’ll be facing the Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors (based in Oakland, Calif.) won the NBA Finals in 2018 and 2017 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, both years… so you know they’re good. The team’s biggest threats are distance shooters Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, both of whom, according to TSN reporter Kayla Grey, have the ability to “pull up from just about anywhere on the court and take you out with scoring.” Other star Warriors include defender Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant, who is currently dealing with a calf injury but will probably return after the beginning of the Finals.

Kawhi Leonard is a superstar

Leonard—who was acquired by the Raptors last July—is the team’s superstar, as seen in that epic Game 7-winning shot against the Philadelphia 76ers a few weeks ago. “No matter how many times you replay it—whether you’re a sports fan or not—it will never get old,” says Grey, adding that Leonard has single-handedly taken games into his own massive hands. In addition to his incredibly large hands, the 27-year-old is incredibly focused, says Yang-Yi Goh, a Toronto-based freelance writer. “He’s the Raptors’s first legitimate superstar. I will seriously consider naming my first child after him if he re-signs in Toronto this summer.”

But the Raptors boasts many superstars!

Including the super stylish Serge Ibaka, 25-year-old Pascal Siakam (who Grey says is hands-down the most improved player in the NBA) and three-point god Danny Green. There’s also newly-minted dad Fred VanVleet, and of course, the longest-serving Raptor, Kyle Lowry, who without a doubt is the team’s beating heart, Goh says.

Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 will be held in Toronto

The Raptors have home court advantage over the Warriors, so Game 1 will kick off at Scotiabank Arena tonight (Thursday, May 30) at 9 p.m. EST, followed by Game 2. Games 5 and 7 are also slated to be held in Toronto, which means many an opportunity for Drake to dole out massages to the players.

Doors to Jurassic Park open 2 hours before game time

Although its been reported that fans wait in line up to five hours before game time in hopes of gaining access to the Maple Leaf Square tailgate party just outside of Scotiabank Arena. For the out-of-towners, viewing parties are slated to be held in Mississauga, Brampton, Burlington, Pickering and Kingston, Ont.

If there’s any time to jump on the bandwagon, now is the time!

“After decades of heartbreak and failure, the Toronto Raptors are on the brink of greatness,” says Goh. “Even if you don’t think you like basketball, trust me: these games are intense, dramatic and engrossing,” he explains, adding that yes, you should totally jump on the bandwagon.

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