It’s time to Break It Down!
In what would have seemed an improbable turn of events at the start of the NBA Season last October, the Toronto Raptors were the last team standing a week ago Monday night. The Canadian based franchise became the first team outside the United States to win an NBA Title. In another first, the Raptors also became the first team to win three road games on the way to the Title.
Last Summer Kawhi Leonard, a former NBA Finals MVP ditched the San Antonio Spurs for the Raptors. Leonard played only 9 games last season. He spent, for all practical purposes, the entire season out due to injury. He and the Spurs’ management and medical staff were at odds all year. His reputation took a major hit…with teammates, Spurs management, fans, and undoubtedly, a number of other NBA teams.
At the end of a contentious year, Leonard forced a trade, which ended up packaging he and Danny Green to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick. At that point there was a fair amount of speculation that Kawhi was at least a borderline malcontent who simply no longer wanted to play in San Antonio, and who may just be biding time in Toronto until an opportunity for him to sign a max contract with another team presented itself. While it’s still uncertain whether Leonard will return to Toronto next year, the malcontent issue appears to have been debunked.
Another year, another Title, and another Finals MVP. A lot has changed. Lest there have been any doubt, Kawhi established again, that he is one of the best among the League’s elite players. Detractors will note that the Raptors bested a depleted Warriors squad, one that saw Kevin Durant make only a token appearance, that saw Klay Thompson falter and go down in the deciding game, that included Andre Iguodala missing time due to injury, and with DeMarcus Cousins playing as a shell of his former self. All that is true, but shed no tears for the 2019 Warriors. A number of teams thought to be destined for NBA Titles have been undone by the fate of the injury gods, including Pistons, Lakers, Cavaliers, and even the Warriors. The season is long and injuries happen. The Warriors stocked their roster with a collection of the best players money could buy. When at full capacity, they could start Cousins, Green, Thompson, Durant, and Curry, or 5 All-Stars. That’s happened on 5 times before this season. That it didn’t work out in the end is surely not the Raptor fault. Neither is it their concern.
In the end, the best team won. Not the best collection of players, or the best team, if everyone had been available, but the best team over the 6-game duration of the 2019 NBA Finals. Conventional wisdom holds that the Western Conference is tougher than the Eastern Conference. Perhaps that’s true. But the Raptors not only swept the Warriors during the Regular Season, they finished with a better record, second only to the Milwaukee Bucks, whom they bested in the Eastern Conference Finals, winning 4 straight games after falling into an 0-2 deficit.
Having a better record than the Warriors meant the Raptors had the home court advantage in the Finals. After splitting games in Toronto to open the series, the Raptors won all 3 games at Oracle Arena (losing one more at home), not just ending the home team’s bid for a Three-peat, but closing Oracle for good with one final loss. The Warriors open a new state-of-the-art facility, the $1.4 billion Chase Center across the bay on (the Mission Bay area of) the San Francisco Waterfront.
Congratulations to the 2019 NBA Champs…”Oh Canada: Raptors Win NBA Title!”
I’m done; holla back!
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