By this past week’s closing, fans of the NBA far and wide had already enjoyed four games of the league’s last postseason contest on professional basketball’s biggest stage.
However, the 2019 NBA Finals have not rendered the result many enthusiasts were quietly believing or boldly predicting around the end of the 2018-19 season. The highlights of today’s state of the world’s favorite hardwood union produced smoke, mirrors, and a reflection of how fast an athlete or team can fade into obscurity after a single game.
According to the Action Network, the betting barons in Las Vegas favored the Golden State Warriors -140 over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals. This presumptive theory turned out to be right on one end; the last team standing in the Western Conference. However, the Warriors are not facing the Bucks or on track to win their final series.
Injuries affected the NBA’s current dynasty as its rulers limped to finish line ahead of its fifth consecutive world championship opportunity. Warriors forward Kevin Durant was declared inactive as his team stared down the barrel of a Toronto Raptors gun that appeared to come out of nowhere.
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard has been the main trigger man to help his team fire that figurative gun relentlessly. The 6’7″ swing man is averaging over 31 points during what has been his second career appearance in the NBA Finals. His first appearance was in 2014 as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard was named the MVP of that series after helping his team torch a revamped Miami Heat team led by Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. After winning it all in 2015, the Warriors began their dynastic rise to prominence. They put their foots on the gas pedal when Durant arrived in 2016 and went on to win back-to-back rings (2017 and 2018).
However, past glory and a sidelined Durant in 2019’s last showdown have not saved them from a Raptors team that is Klawing for any man wearing blue, white, and gold. Game four of the current NBA Finals series (June 7) showcased a third Warriors beat down. Behind 1-3 and still without Durant, the eye test reveals that the Raptors smell blood.
Even a near triple-double from Warriors forward Draymond Green and nearly 60 points combined from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson was not enough to save the day. Game five of this series begins on Monday (June 10) in Toronto. Finally, the four-game box score of this series proves a massacre to those who haven’t watched a game.
One of the legendary Pat Riley’s favorite championship coaching mantras was “No rebounds, no ring.”
The Raptors obviously understand that. In game four, Leonard grabbed more rebounds than some key Warriors players have gotten in the entire series. Vegas counted Toronto out. But Hell’s Kitchen obviously couldn’t tell what a 27-year-old defensive tank was cooking with a 7’3″ wingspan.
With a chance to close this last series on their home floor, the Raptors can show that the house always wins (pun intended). Leonard can also rewrite the fickle bylaws of Vegas by acting out his best game time trash talk line: “The board man gets paid.”