The Kawhi-et Team: A Recap of the NBA Finals
What a difference a year makes! Last year, before the 2018-2019 NBA commenced, the Toronto Raptors weren't on anyone’s radar in terms of making it as the Eastern Conference champions, and reaching the NBA Finals. And much less emerging as champions, if up against the Golden State Warriors, who were expected to once again take the Western Conference. Trading with San Antonio during the 2018 off-season, and getting Kawhi Leonard (and Danny Green) in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl had people shaking their heads. Leonard hadn’t played for a year, and most even dared to voice the opinion that San Antonio came out ahead with the trade.
But when the smoke, injuries, and hoopla all cleared and settled during Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Larry O’Brien NBA Trophy is heading to Canada; and Kawhi has secured MVP Honors for the second time in his pro basketball career. To make this storyline even more incredible, rookie coach Nick Nurse validates the Raptors decision last year to relieve Coach of the Year 2018 Dwayne Casey of his duties.
And if Kyle Lowry’s inability to lead a team, to not choke during the playoffs, were the prevailing storylines of the pundits who claimed to know the NBA game inside out, they were all eating crow, as Lowry reserved one of his best playoff games for this Game 6 — putting a stop to any notion the Warriors may have had of bringing the series to a Game 7 back in Toronto. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Green, and Fred VanFleet all played their essential support roles to perfection.
The Warriors didn’t give up the trophy without an admirable fight. Even as player injuries decimated their line up, they found ways to win Games 2 and 5. Not only did they lose Durant (twice!), but at some point, Klay Thompson, and even Kevon Looney had to sit out games. Curry, Green, and Iguodala were Golden State’s most consistent players; and we can’t say enough about their heart, and “Never Say Die” attitude.
1993, 16 years ago, was the last time a Canadian professional sports team took home the bacon — this being the Toronto Blue Jays in the MLB (Major League Baseball). The Raptors win will have some impact on the grassroots programs of Basketball in this hockey-mad country. Masai Ujiri, Head of Basketball Operations in Toronto, is regarded as being responsible for taking the risks other teams would not have even considered — and the O’Brien Trophy is vindication of the highest order.
NBA Postscript: LeBron & LeBrow
With both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson seemingly out for the 2019/2020 season due to serious injuries that require extensive recovery time; the breaking news of Anthony Davis finally moving to the Lakers to join King James (LeBron) is the first hot topic of the post-season. Unfortunately, the Lakers also paid a hefty price to get Davis, and the Lakers have a big hole in the backcourt — so stay tuned, as it looks like it’ll be a very busy and interesting off season as teams jockey to strengthen their respective line-ups.
Photos from NBA website