TORONTO, Canada (AFP) - Defending champion Golden State received a boost hours before the start of the NBA Finals as injured centre DeMarcus Cousins was declared fit for Thursday's opener (May 30).
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.
"We have to figure out what's the best way to utilise him, how many minutes can he play, what the game feels like, what the matchups are like," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
"Some of that will be determined by what's happening in the game."
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.
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."
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 were lining up seven hours early for prized spots outside Scotiabank Arena simply for the chance to be among thousands watching the game on a giant television screen in a three-block "Jurassic Park" party area.
"Support in the square has been real T.O. (Toronto, Ontario)," the Raptors tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
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."