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Wednesday July 24th, 2019 4:50AM

The Latest: Finals tip off with Bell at center for Warriors

By The Associated Press
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TORONTO (AP) — The Latest from the NBA Finals and Thursday's Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors (all times local):

9:15 p.m.

The first NBA Finals outside the U.S. have tipped off, with Jordan Bell doing the honors for Golden State.

DeMarcus Cousins was active and available after recovering from a torn left quadriceps, but coach Steve Kerr opted to go with Bell as his starting center — or centre, as it's spelled in Toronto. Kerr says he expects he will have to use Cousins in shorter stints in his first game since getting hurt in the first round.

Andre Iguodala was also back in the Warriors' lineup after missing the last game of the Western Conference finals with left calf tightness.

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8:55 p.m.

Drake is wearing a Curry jersey for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Dell Curry, that is.

Stephen Curry's father ended his career as a member of the Raptors, and Drake was wearing his purple-and-black No. 30 jersey as he watched from his courtside seat near the Raptors' bench.

The rapper and Raptors' global ambassador was animated well before the game started, gesturing to fans and arena workers all around him. Commissioner Adam Silver said the league had talked to Drake and his manager about some of his antics —he rubbed Toronto coach Nick Nurse's shoulders during one game in the conference finals— and Silver says he believed they ended the discussions in a good place.

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7:40 p.m.

Toronto may be going back to a plan that worked in the Eastern Conference finals.

The East title series turned when the Raptors tasked Kawhi Leonard with guarding Milwaukee's best player and the league's likely MVP this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

So a similar tact may be in play for the NBA Finals, with Raptors coach Nick Nurse saying before Game 1 that Leonard —an elite defender— may get time guarding Golden State's Draymond Green, who is having a tremendous postseason run.

That being said, Nurse cautioned that "it's more than a one-person job" and said the emphasis on team defense will be paramount.

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7:05 p.m.

Larry Bird says Kawhi Leonard is "playing as good as anyone's ever played in this league through the playoffs."

But Bird also knows the Toronto Raptors face a new level of pressure in their first NBA Finals.

The three-time NBA champion says of the finals: "If you've never been there before and you never played in it, it's a different animal."

The Warriors have been here before, winning three titles in the last four years. Bird is especially impressed with a couple of Klay Thompson's standout performances, including one he saw in person when the Golden State guard scored 60 points against the Indiana Pacers in just 29 minutes.

Bird says the Warriors are "doing things with the 3-point line that I didn't think would ever happen in this league, so obviously they're a great basketball team and a great champion. But Toronto's got a great chance."

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6:50 p.m.

The Warriors will not see LeBron James in these NBA Finals, for a change.

They'll apparently see him plenty in the preseason next fall.

The Los Angeles Lakers announced their preseason schedule for the 2019-20 season on Thursday, a few hours before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and revealed that they will be playing Golden State four times in exhibitions.

It was already known that the Warriors would play for the first time in their new building — the Chase Center in San Francisco— on Oct. 5 against the Lakers in a preseason opener. The teams will also play on Oct. 14 and Oct. 16 in Los Angeles, and then Oct. 18 back in San Francisco.

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6:40 p.m.

James Capers is the crew chief selected for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Capers is working his eighth finals. Jason Phillips, in his sixth finals, is also on the Game 1 crew. John Goble, in his third finals, was also assigned to the game.

Marc Davis, who will be an on-court ref later in the series, will work the game from the NBA's replay center. Josh Tiven will be on-site in Toronto as an alternate in case Capers, Phillips or Goble cannot finish the game for any reason.

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6:25 p.m.

Turns out, both of the Curry brothers will be at Game 1 of the NBA Finals after all.

NBC Sports Bay Area posted video of Seth Curry's arrival in Toronto on Thursday, one that came a few hours before Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors were to take on the Toronto Raptors in the opener of the title series.

Seth's Portland Trail Blazers were swept by Steph and the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. That was the first time brothers played against one another in the conference-final round of the NBA playoffs.

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2:25 p.m.

Golden State star Kevin Durant will miss Game 1 of the NBA Finals with his strained calf muscle, and Game 2 might not be in his plans either.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr says that "it's a long shot" that Durant will be able to practice with the team in Toronto before Game 2 of the title series against the Raptors. Kerr has said that Durant won't be back in a game until he practices with the team.

So that means Durant seems unlikely to return before Game 3 — at the earliest.

Kerr says Durant has been doing some on-court workouts, but there still is no concrete plan for when the 2017 and 2018 NBA Finals MVP can rejoin practices. Durant was hurt in Game 5 of the Warriors' second-round series against Houston.

___

11:10 a.m.

Fans in Toronto are ready and eager for their city to play host to its first NBA Finals game.

Crowds began building outside Jurassic Park — the square outside Scotiabank Arena — shortly after sunrise Thursday, or about 15 hours before Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Raptors and the Golden State Warriors.

Former Toronto star Chris Bosh, who is working with Canadian broadcaster TSN for the series, also arrived there Thursday morning to greet and chat with some fans.

Officials say more than 5,000 fans will be in the square for the game, watching on big screens. Other similar watch parties are planned around the city for those not lucky enough to grab a ticket to watch inside the arena.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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