The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors on the road for the third time of the 2019 NBA Finals on Thursday to secure their first ever title in franchise history in six games.
The Warriors, who failed to win their third straight championship and fourth in five years, were completely depleted by injuries by the time the series was over and were suffocated by Toronto’s vast depth.
Kevin Durant, who tore his achilles, played just one quarter in the NBA Finals and was essentially missing in action for the final month of the season. Klay Thompson was unable to go for the entirety of game three before ultimately tearing his ACL in game six (He still managed to score over 30 points in 30 minutes of play). The only consistent super star on a team that has seemingly hoarded talent for three straight seasons was Stephen Curry.
Curry led all players in the Finals with 183 points, averaging over 30 per game. This included 47 points in a game three loss in Golden State. Thompson averaged 26 points in the five games he participated in. Curry and Thompson were essentially the entire show for the Warriors. The third leading scorer on the team during the Finals was Draymond Green with just 75.
Kawhi Leonard has led the way for the Raptors since they acquired him via trade last season and earned the Finals Most Valuable Player award by averaging 28.5 points in the series, which included a 36-point performance in a critical game four win. Pascal Siakam was second on the team in scoring and led the way for the Raptors on the scoreboard in games one and six. The series also would not have been won without the services of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol.
Now it is time to begin an offseason that will revolutionize the NBA. The tyrannical rule of the Warriors that has lasted for five seasons is more or less over. They will still be a strong team, but far from a Finals shoe-in with Durant likely on his way out and the future of Thompson in question.
Another question is Kawhi Leonard. Many thought his time in Toronto would surely last no more than one season when he was traded to the Raptors last summer. But no one ever would have imagined an NBA title for the Raptors in 2019 at that time.
I would love to see him stay and defy the common culture of constantly switching teams. It was only meant to be short term, but things change. NBA fans north of the border have fallen in love with their new superstar and he should think long and hard before leaving that behind. Players jump around from team to team searching for exactly what Leonard has already found: a team that can compete for titles. He will have the chance to win multiple titles with the Raptors or leave in search of his third championship, all with different organizations (Leonard won his first title as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2014).
The first big shakeup of the offseason came over the weekend when the Los Angeles Lakers essentially threw all of their cards in on acquiring Anthony Davis from the Pelicans. In exchange for Davis, New Orleans received Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first round draft picks, including the fourth overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
The Lakers sacrificed a lot to get LeBron James another superstar, but it makes them instant contenders for the title in 2020. They will still need to add a guard to the mix to be considered seriously dangerous. But James and Davis is far from a bad start.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, now have the first and fourth picks in Thursday’s draft. After winning the draft lottery, they are in a position to grab the most prolific incoming rookie since 2003 in the form of Zion Williamson. They will also have the opportunity to take someone like De’Andre Hunter with the fourth pick. Suddenly, the Pelicans will be loaded with some of the league’s most intriguing young stars and all eyes will be on New Orleans in 2020 and beyond.
In the NHL, the St. Louis Blues have reached the mountaintop for the first time in their 52-year history with an improbable run through the postseason and past the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington saved his best performance for last in game seven in Boston and saved 32 out of 33 shots directed his way. It was already 4-0 Blues when he finally allowed a shot to get by him.
St. Louis jumped ahead in the first period to set the stage for the remainder of game seven. Ryan O’Reilly, who would later earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as the series MVP, gave the Blues a 1-0 advantage with a goal on Tuukka Rask in the first. Alex Pietrangelo added another with eight seconds left in the period to demoralize Boston before the first break.
Despite ample chances for the Bruins, the Blues were the ones who were able to build and maintain a lead while Binnington performed a nearly perfect game in the net. One has to credit the rookie goaltender for his ability to bounce back throughout the series. After a 7-2 loss in game three, he held Boston to just two goals to give the Blues a critical win in game four. His dominance in game seven came just three nights after the Bruins got the best of him in game six to extend the series.
You cannot help but feel good for the Blues and their fans in St. Louis for the long overdue Stanley Cup, but you also cannot help but think back to game five of this extremely competitive series. This was when a blatant trip against the Bruins was not called and the Blues went on to take a 2-0 lead in the game shortly after. This allowed St. Louis to hang onto a 2-1 victory in regulation and take a three games to two series lead at the time.
Still, it is hard to feel too bad for Boston. After all, they did have a chance to host the series-defining seventh game and were simply outplayed. The Blues won three out of the four contests played in Boston throughout the series.