Celtics

About last night: Kawhi Leonard, Raptors derail Warriors' three-peat quest

Celtics

WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT

Forsberg: We got robbed 

Can we be brutally honest? We were bummed when Steph Curry’s 3-pointer clanged off the back rim in the final seconds of Thursday’s epic Game 6. The Raptors and Warriors spoiled us with an unbelievably entertaining NBA Finals and we selfishly wanted one more game.

Given all that Golden State endured with injuries in this series, it felt like Curry’s shot should have fallen. And yet Toronto deserved its first title.

A team that was supposed to be overwhelmed on the big stage repeatedly showed championship poise. To win three games on the road against a team like Golden State — no matter how battered the Warriors were — is simply unfathomable.

What a remarkable story for Toronto to shake up its roster last summer with the Kawhi Leonard gamble and now they are champions (with Leonard emerging as Finals MVP). 

Blakely: Raptors’ gamble pays off with the ultimate prize  

 

Against the odds. 

Acquiring Kawhi Leonard. Getting out of the second round of the playoffs. Nick Nurse, a first-year NBA coach, doing a better job than his predecessor Dwane Casey, who was fired after winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award. 

As you look at all the factors that came into play for the Toronto Raptors to win the franchise’s first NBA title with a Game 6 win at Golden State on Thursday night, it reads like an improbable movie script that’s clearly fiction because no one would ever believe so many things would break right for a franchise in one season to culminate with the league’s ultimate prize, the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

But here we are, hours removed from the official end of the NBA season and potentially a Warriors dynasty that includes three NBA titles in the last four seasons. 

But this moment isn’t about the former champs; it’s about the current ones who took the crown by doing just that — taking it. 

You’ll hear talk about how the Raptors benefited heavily from all of the Warriors’ injuries, but isn’t that part of the point of having a super team like theirs; so that if one or two go down, you still have one or two still around who can hold the fort down? No.

This title run isn’t about who was missing for Golden State, but more about who showed up for the Raptors. 

Yes, Kawhi Leonard was the best player (cyborg?) on the floor throughout most of the series, but he didn’t get this chip by himself. Fred VanVleet Jr’.s Daddy (son gets props because ever since he was born, his pops has been ballin’ out hard) was so clutch in Game 6 with 12 of his 22 points coming in the fourth. Veteran Kyle Lowry made all the plays needed to keep the ship afloat. Serge Ibaka delivered some much-needed toughness, clutch shot making and gritty play off the bench. 

And in the end, Toronto prevailed for one reason only: They played a better series, doing so despite the odds of competing let alone winning it all, being heavily stacked against them.

SO... THAT HAPPENED

Listen, we’re all for shooting your shot, but trying to get a Steph Curry autograph just minutes after he missed a monster shot and his team lost the Finals is just a wild move.

NUMBER OF NOTE

4-0 — The Raptors' record at Oracle Arena this season, including 3-0 in the NBA Finals. Toronto had a +31 point differential in Oakland, the second-best road margin in Finals history. The only team with a larger road point differential in the NBA Finals? The 2014 Spurs, who beat the Heat. The MVP in that series? The same MVP as this year: Kawhi Leonard. 

 

THEY SAID IT

"I just came in with the right mindset, let's go out and win ball games. I texted Kyle probably a day later -- or the day that I got traded and told him, I said, 'Let's go out and do something special. I know your best friend left, I know you're mad, but let's make this thing work out.' And we are here today."

Kawhi Leonard, after leading the Raptors to their first championship in team history

THEY SAID IT, PART 2

"I think everybody thinks it's kind of the end of us. But that's just not smart. We're not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn't our year, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it's the end of a run and all that jazz. I don't see it happening though. We'll be back."

Draymond Green, after the Warriors came up short in their quest for a three-peat

WHAT WE'LL BE WATCHING

Forsberg: Buckle up! 

The only thing more entertaining than these Finals might be the sheer lunacy that awaits this NBA offseason.

I mean, Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri was on stage talking about Toronto’s crazy run when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted the Washington Wizards were preparing a mega-offer for his services.

It will be fascinating to watch if the success that Leonard had in Toronto emboldens other NBA teams to roll the dice with risky moves on flight-risk players in hopes of increasing immediate title chances.

Does Leonard end up in Los Angeles next season after all the success he enjoyed this year? NBA free agency is ready to dominate the summer headlines.

Blakely: Durant, Thompson, Warriors’ future moves 

Klay Thompson leaving Oracle Arena on crutches was a disappointing but fitting image of the state of the Golden State Warriors now. 

They literally limp into the offseason following the Toronto Raptors putting an end to their hopes of a three-peat with a Game 6 win that gave the Raptors the franchise’s first NBA title.

The pain of this series coming to an end for the Warriors remains fresh for Thompson and his teammates, but it’s hard to dwell on it too much with he and teammate Kevin Durant hitting free agency in a couple weeks. 

 

All indications are that Thompson will return to Golden State, but Thompson will draw interest from other teams who will certainly try and lure him with the chance to have a more prominent role on their team than the one he has now.

The future of Kevin Durant is a lot more hazy. 

Any team that signs Durant this summer will do so knowing he’s likely out for most if not all of the 2019-2020 season recovering from his torn Achilles injury. But a generational talent such as Durant, even with the knowledge that he’s likely not to return to the floor for a year, will still have plenty of suitors. 

Like Thompson, there’s no clear answer as to what Durant is in search of at this point in his career. If it’s all about the clearest path to winning titles, he’ll stay put in the Bay. If he’s looking for a different kind of challenge, he’ll take his talents East and play for the New York Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets. 

Regardless of what he decides to do, Durant’s decision — much like his injury — will have a seismic impact on the rest of the league even as he and Thompson, two of the biggest names on the free agent market this summer, limp into the offseason.

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