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Cousins will be available for Warriors in NBA Finals opener

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Defending champion Golden State received a boost hours before the start of the NBA Finals as injured center DeMarcus Cousins was declared fit for Thursday’s opener.

Cousins suffered a torn left quad muscle last month in only his second career NBA playoff game but recovered quickly enough to help the Warriors in the best-of-seven championship series against the Toronto Raptors.

“He’s a gamer. He lights up when the lights go on,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“Because he has been out for six, seven weeks and because he’s a big guy I don’t know that his wind and legs will allow him to play big minutes, but I know he can help us in bursts and we’ll have to figure out what that means.”

Still sidelined for the Warriors is star forward Kevin Durant, who suffered a right calf strain earlier this month and was already declared out for the opener. Golden State is 5-0 in Durant’s absence, including a sweep of Portland in the Western Conference finals.

Cousins was added by the Warriors last July but a ruptured left Achilles tendon kept him from playing until January.

“We have been through this before,” Kerr said. “That gives us a little help, because of his first injury when he came back in January. We saw him transfer from scrimmages to actual games and we saw a big uptick.”

Cousins then suffered his latest setback as the Warriors began their run to a fifth consecutive final.

“This is the stage every basketball player as a kid growing up dreams of,” Cousins said on Wednesday.

“To be here is a huge honor and it’s an incredible feeling so I’m extremely excited.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse will be working just as hard to stop Cousins, using switching defenses and multiple players against him and all the Warriors.

“He’s big around the block,” Nurse said. “He’s a guy they can throw it into down there and possibly force you into some double teams and that’s always exposing some other things.

“He’s also a really (effective) passer. They drop him out there at the top of the key, trailing in the break, and they hit him and guys start cutting and he can find them. So it presents us a few problems.

“We have tried to prepare our guys for those and hopefully come up with some coverages that minimize his effectiveness.”

The Warriors are chasing their third consecutive title and fourth in five seasons in the first NBA Finals to be played outside the United States.

The Raptors are in the first finals in their 24-season history, a buzz building around the city about their historic bid to dethrone the NBA’s current dynasty.

“Especially against a team like that, you can’t let games slip away or home court slip away,” Raptors guard Danny Green said. “We want to try our best to protect home court, get every game possible.”

Supporters for the Canadian club lined up seven hours early around the arena and quickly filled the prized spots outside Scotiabank Arena for the chance to watch the game on a giant television screen in a three-block “Jurassic Park” party area.

– Curry’s Canadian ties –
The Warriors are ready for the passion Canadian fans will bring, Golden State 3-point sharpshooter Stephen Curry said.

“We’ve been here before,” Curry said. “We understand the hoopla and the pandemonium around the finals and how different things are when it comes to just the schedule and the vibe. We’ve seen a lot and we’ll be ready for it. We know the crowd is going to be crazy.”

Curry knows the feeling well. His father retired here after playing for the Raptors and his wife is from the Toronto suburbs.

“It’s special,” Curry said. “Back in ’02, I lived here for a couple years, went to school out here. My wife grew up in Markham, right down the street. So a lot of family history.

“To be in the NBA Finals, it’s something I’ve even been looking forward to if they ever made it.”