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Rick Zamperin: These 3 marquee matchups will decide 2019 NBA Finals

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves past Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Thursday Nov. 29, 2018.
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves past Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Thursday Nov. 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The 2019 NBA Finals pits the Toronto Raptors against the Golden State Warriors, but it’s way more than just two teams going at it for world basketball supremacy.

This series, like all others before it, will include a handful of marquee matchups that will ultimately decide whether the Warriors will win their third consecutive championship or the Raptors win their first ever title.

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So, without further ado, here are the three most important make-or-break matchups.

Kawhi vs. Curry

This may seem like an odd matchup because it’s very unlikely that either player will draw the assignment of covering one another, but Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Golden State’s Stephen Curry are the best players on their respective teams.

Warriors star Kevin Durant might take offence to that, but a calf injury will keep him out of Game 1 on Thursday, and who knows, maybe even more than just one game. The Raptors don’t stand a chance unless Leonard continues his extraordinary play at both ends of the floor.

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Curry can have an off night and the Warriors would still be fine, but Golden State will need Stef to be Stef more often than not if K-D doesn’t return.

Draymond vs. Lowry

The showdown between the heart and soul of these two franchises may be the biggest this series has to offer. Without Draymond Green’s talent and tenacity, the Warriors are simply not the same team. Green’s physicality and tenacity from the opening tip off to the final whistle is unmatched in today’s game. Kyle Lowry is Toronto’s emotional engine whose teammates feed off his bull in a china shop mentality. When Lowry’s execution matches his will to win, look out, because he is as dangerous as they come.

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Nurse vs. Kerr

Steve Kerr’s Warriors are going for their third straight title and fourth championship in the last five years. The five-time champion during his playing days has had the most talented team in the NBA for the last half-decade, but he has still managed to push all the right buttons and get the most out of his roster.

In his rookie season as an NBA head coach, Nick Nurse has handled the ‘is Kawhi staying in Toronto past this season?’ hot potato all year long, and has done so beautifully.

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More often than not, Nurse has made key in-game adjustments to put his team in the best position to win.

There are a handful of other matchups that are obviously important, but whichever team comes out on top of these big three will most likely be crowned NBA champions.