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'We have a job to do': Raptors veteran Gasol ready for NBA Finals challenge
Published Thursday, May 30, 2019 8:19AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, May 30, 2019 10:26AM EDT
TORONTO -- Marc Gasol didn't give himself much time to celebrate winning the NBA's Eastern Conference title on Saturday night.
He has bigger goals in mind.
"I'm not in that mode to analyze what (winning the East) means to me," the Toronto Raptors centre said as his team prepared for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday against the visiting Golden State Warriors. "To me we have a job to do, a challenge that we're facing right now and I'm going to enjoy the challenge, without question.
"Preparing for it, all the things you need to do to get ready for Game 1, and after that there's more games coming up. ... You have to dial in and do your job."
"You don't look back on what happened and the things you accomplished," Gasol added. "It's a professional athlete's nature to look to the next challenge. We'll have time to look back later on."
It's Toronto's appearance in the league's championship round while the Warriors are in the title series for a fifth straight season.
Toronto dispatched the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and league-best Milwaukee Bucks en route to the NBA Finals. But Golden State, Gasol said, is a different animal.
And the Raptors will have to be ready.
"Every possession from the jump ball, communicating, solving issues as we face them, not overreacting to whatever," said the 34-year-old Spaniard. "They're going to make shots, they're a really good team."
"You have to stay in. You can't overreact, you can't allow things to affect you as a team negatively," Gasol added. "I think we showed a lot of mental toughness against Milwaukee. A lot of the things are new to us as a team, but I think as players we've faced a lot of those things."
Gasol was a late addition to a Raptors team that began building for a championship in the off-season, trading fan-favourite DeMar DeRozan for superstar Kawhi Leonard. Gasol arrived at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Jonas Valanciunas to Memphis.
Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, has been on this stage before, as have veterans Danny Green and Serge Ibaka. But Gasol and Kyle Lowry, who's in his seventh season with the Raptors, will be competing in an NBA Finals for the first time.
"Having Marc and Kyle, seeing everything they've gone through, talking about the ebbs and flows of the NBA and how close they were and the battles they've had ... I'm happy for them and I know they're going to go out there and lay it on the line," said fourth-year guard Norman Powell.
"They're older guys in the league so the window for them is closing ... they want to take advantage of this opportunity."
Powell, who had three straight games with double-digit points in Toronto's Eastern Conference final win over the Bucks, is relishing this moment too.
"We're here for a reason ... and you just have to go out there and leave that on the line," he said. "It doesn't matter who you're going against, you just have to leave it all out there."