TORONTO, May 31 — Here are five things to know about the 2019 NBA Finals, the best-of-seven championship series that opens Thursday:
Warriors fifth in a row
The defending champion Golden State Warriors are playing in their fifth consecutive NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, having gone 3-1 against Cleveland in the past four finals. The only team in NBA history with an equal or longer run of appearances in the championship series is the Boston Celtics, who reached the finals a record 10 years in a row from 1957-1966.
Among the major North American sports leagues, the Warriors join a select few teams to play for a title five consecutive years, a group including the Celtics, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders and Montreal Canadians.
Seeking a ‘Three-peat’
The Warriors are trying to join an elite few NBA clubs who have won three consecutive titles. The most recent team to win three NBA crowns in a row was the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-2002 with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a pair of “Three-peats” from 1991-93 and after returning from a break from the NBA to play baseball in 1996-98.
The Boston Celtics under coach Red Auerbach set the record with a run of eight consecutive NBA championships from 1959-1966. But the first club to win three consecutive NBA titles was the Minneapolis Lakers, who managed the feat from 1952-54.
Four titles, five tries
The Warriors could become only the third team to win four NBA titles in five seasons, but the first team to do it in half a century.
The Boston Celtics, ignited by star centre Bill Russell, managed the feat in 1969, which was their 11th crown in 13 seasons over the greatest dynasty run in NBA history. Previously, the Minneapolis Lakers, powered by star big man George Mikan, won five titles in six seasons from 1949 to 1954.
The Magic Johnson-led “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers failed in a bid for a fourth title in five seasons in 1989, when the Detroit Pistons swept them in the finals. Detroit also denied the Lakers a fourth title in five years in 2004, downing the Shaq and Kobe-sparked squad 4-1.
First Finals beyond US
Canada hosts the first NBA Finals games to be played outside the United States, even though the league’s growing global popularity has sparked worldwide interest for decades.
The Toronto Raptors could become the first club from beyond the US borders to lift the trophy. The first game in NBA history, when the league was known as the Basketball Association of America, was played in Toronto by the Huskies, who lost to the New York Knicks.
Canada had another NBA club in the Vancouver Grizzlies, who called Western Canada home from 1995 through 2001. After six NBA seasons, the team was relocated to Memphis, Tennessee.
Kerr’s coaching 5-in-5
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr has become only the third coach in North American sports history to reach the championship round in his first five seasons as a professional coach, joining Paul Brown of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Joseph “Toe” Blake of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens. Kerr can capture his fourth title, having missed out by a seventh-game loss to Cleveland in 2016 on the chance for a 5-in-5 sweep.
Blake guided Montreal to the Stanley Cup from 1956-1960 in his first five years as an NHL coach.
Brown won four titles in four seasons guiding the Browns in the All-America Football Conference, a post-World War II NFL rival, and when that league folded in 1949, the Browns were among three clubs to join the NFL, where his Browns promptly won the league crown, defeating the Los Angeles Rams in the 1950 championship game. — AFP