Right before the February trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors made a big move by acquiring veteran center Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for a package centered on their erstwhile starting center, Jonas Valanciunas.
As noted by NBC Sports Bay Area, Gasol was having a “down year” at the time he was shipped to the Raptors, but the team was, in any case, looking for a tried-and-tested veteran who could help them achieve success in the postseason. And it seems that the team was anticipating one specific matchup when they traded for the former Defensive Player of the Year — Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins.
In a report published on Tuesday, Marc Spears of The Undefeated focused mainly on Cousins, the Warriors’ big free agent acquisition from the summer of 2018, who had a productive — if abbreviated — regular season in Golden State where he averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.3 steals in just under 26 minutes per game. After playing only 30 regular season games as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon sustained midway through the 2017-18 season, Cousins went on to miss most of this year’s playoffs due to a quad injury he suffered during the Warriors’ first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
With Cousins back in action in time for the 2019 NBA Finals against the Raptors, Spears noted that the 28-year-old big man did not play in either game when Toronto defeated Golden State in both their regular-season matchups. However, he added that the Raptors were thinking of the chances they’d be meeting the Warriors for the championship when they swapped starting centers with the Grizzlies in February.
“Part of the reason that the Raptors acquired Marc Gasol at the trade deadline was in hopes of a potential Finals matchup with Cousins,” Spears wrote, citing an unnamed league source.
Just as previously confirmed by head coach Steve Kerr, Cousins saw action in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. However, he ended up playing just eight minutes off the bench, scoring three points and grabbing two rebounds in limited action, as shown on ESPN‘s Game 1 boxscore.
Meanwhile, Gasol played 30 minutes for the Raptors, scoring 20 points and adding seven rebounds, two steals, one assist, and one blocked shot as Toronto defeated Golden State, 118-109, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Prior to this game, he was averaging just 8.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 18 playoff games with the Raptors, per Basketball Reference.
Despite Marc Gasol’s strong performance in Game 1, USA Today‘s Warriors Wire recently predicted that Cousins would give Golden State the edge at center, provided he’s healthy. The outlet also suggested that the Warriors could make good use of their own veteran center, Andrew Bogut, as they field him off the bench as someone who could match up well against the 7-foot-1-inch Gasol in terms of size.