Warriors embrace a new NBA Finals challenge with Raptors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After four straight years of facing LeBron James and Cleveland in the NBA Finals, this feels refreshing for the two-time defending champion Warriors.

“For sure,” Shaun Livingston said with a smile of taking on the upstart Raptors, “for sure, we’ll leave it right there.”

Off to Toronto, finally a fresh team that’s tops from the East. Golden State is embracing every part of this new-look — well, the other half of it, at least — finals.

“I love it,” Stephen Curry said Monday following Golden State’s first game-planning practice ahead of the series opener Thursday night in Toronto.

The Warriors coaches gathered Sunday to prep once they had an opponent, with the players taking a day off. Golden State is well-rested after wrapping up its Western Conference finals sweep of Portland on May 20 — giving the Warriors nine full days off between games.

Toronto won the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 6 victory against Milwaukee on Saturday.

This certainly isn’t the familiar Cavaliers.

“That was the exception. This is more the rule,” coach Steve Kerr said. “You’re not supposed to play the same team every year. So that was a special era, a special rivalry and we’re thrilled to be back. Cleveland has moved on and their team has broken up and with LeBron leaving the East, things were wide open.

“It was a hell of a ride through that East playoffs for Philly, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto, all great teams, quality of play was something to watch. Toronto obviously emerged as the best team of the East and well deserved. The scene the other night was amazing to watch, too. The fans in Toronto have been amazing over the years. I’ve compared that arena to Oracle many times. When I was in broadcasting both the Raptors and th

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