Since we may not be seeing another NBA Finals anytime soon, let’s reflect on the 2019 matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.
The NBA season is on hold until further notice so there may not be a better time to look back at one of the strangest NBA Finals we have ever seen. The Golden State Warriors narrowly missed a third straight championship due to a number of insane storylines in 2019.
First, let’s paint the picture for the Warriors season as a whole. They somehow managed to anger the NBA fan base even more by signing four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason. This move “ruined the league” for many fans and marked the peak of Warriors hate.
Throughout the season, it became clear the Dubs weren’t going to stampede the competition as they did in years prior. An on-court argument between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green would go on to fuel Durant’s decision to leave the team at the season’s end. Even so, the Warriors entered the playoffs with hopes of completing the three-peat.
Quickly, the wheels began to fall off. Cousins tore his quad in the first round while Durant suffered a lower leg injury against the Houston Rockets. A few strong performances from Stephen Curry helped propel the Dubs back to the NBA Finals for the fifth straight season.
Waiting on the other end was the Toronto Raptors. This franchise had been mocked for years but now had a serious chance at winning the title with Kawhi Leonard running the show. Their run through the Eastern Conference was remarkable and only the Warriors stood in between them and their first championship in franchise history.
Game 1 set the tone for what was to come. With Durant and still sidelined, Curry carried a large portion of the offensive load, scoring a game-high 34 points. In the end, the Raptors prevailed and won 118-109.
The Raptors began to key in heavily on Curry. The two-time MVP faced double-teams at every turn and was harassed relentlessly off-ball. Despite Toronto’s best efforts, Golden State stole Game 2 behind a clutch 3-pointer from Andre Iguodala.
Despite being heavily targeted by Toronto’s defense, Curry exploded for 47 points in Game 3. An NBA Finals career-high for Curry was not enough to avoid a 14 point loss at home.
The Raptors really began to apply pressure in Game 4. Back-to-back blowout losses put the Warriors at a 3-1 disadvantage. But, hope was not all lost, as Durant prepared to make his return to the floor in Game 5.
Durant’s arrival was heroic. It was shaping up to be a storybook ending with Durant saving the day and leading the Warriors back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit. In under 12 minutes of playing time, KD had scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting.
Then, as we all remember, Durant’s Achilles blew out on him. This should have marked the end of the Warriors season but the team persevered and forced a sixth game back in the Bay Area.
With their backs against the wall, the Dubs still didn’t give up. Klay Thompson began to deliver another iconic Game 6 performance, scoring 30 points on only 12 shots through the first three-quarters of play.
Had it not been for a devastating play in which Thompson tore his ACL, perhaps the Warriors could have pushed this series to a decisive Game 7. However, with two-star players down, the Dubs didn’t have enough talent to compete.
The Raptors finished the deal in six games behind a great series from Kawhi Leonard. Leonard averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists as he captured his second Finals MVP trophy.
This series marked the end of a few tenures for both teams. Danny Green and Leonard both left Toronto in the offseason while the Dubs parted ways with Durant and Iguodala.
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The 2019 NBA Finals will forever be one of the NBA’s greatest “What ifs?” as no one truly knows what could have happened if these two teams played against each other at full strength.