NBA finals underway
The NBA finals are underway as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State in game one by a score of 118-109; the first finals appearance for the Raptors in franchise history and while coming close the last several years, they had not been able to get over the hump. So this past off-season, the Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri decided to make a significant change. For years, the Raptors were built around DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, after making the playoffs and going far during each of the past four seasons, it was time to switch things up once Ujiri realized that the team had reached its full potential, knowing that they could not make the finals.
This past summer, Ujiri traded DeRozan as well as some other small pieces for the services of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Kawhi Leonard is considered to be one of the best three players on the planet, playing his entire career up until this year for the San Antonio Spurs, bringing a championship to San Antonio back in 2014 against the Miami Heat with Kawhi Leonard being the MVP of those 2014 finals. This Raptors team needed a makeover, and the goal by trading for Leonard was to take this team to heights they had never seen.
The regular season with Leonard was successful, winning 58 games in an Eastern Conference that was a lot stronger this season, with the Bucks winning 60 games and getting the number one seed. By the time the playoffs rolled around, it was time for the Raptors to show that this trade was worth it, beating the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round with a buzzer beater by no other than Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors then dismantled the Bucks in 6 games, leading to the first finals Toronto has ever seen.
So far so good in Canada, as the Raptors played a tremendous game one on their homecourt. As good as Kawhi Leonard is, he has had plenty of assistance all season and especially in the playoffs. This game saw Pascal Siakam score 32 points on 14-17 shooting from the field, as well as 2-3 from the three-point line. Siakam is in his third year in the NBA, this year averaging 16.9 points per game after only averaging 7.3 last season and is considered to be the favorite to win the Most Improved Player award later this month. Marc Gasol added in 20 points for the Raptors, a player traded to Toronto at the trade deadline back in February. Overall the Raptors just played a better game shooting 50.6 percent for the game as well as 39.4 on three-pointers. In the loss, Steph Curry led the Warriors with 34 points, Klay Thompson adding 21, and Draymond Green putting together a triple-double including 10 points, 10, rebounds, and 10 assists.
With every NBA finals comes history that the Warriors keep making in an unprecedented fashion. This is the Warriors FIFTH straight finals appearance now, only the second team to ever accomplish this with the first being the Boston Celtics of the 1960s. Making five straight finals is so unfathomable to do that no other all-time teams have done it, the Bulls over the 90s never did, as well as the Lakers, Celtics of the 80s, and so on.
With every year comes new adversity for these Golden State Warriors, led by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and for the last three seasons now, Kevin Durant. By adding Durant, they went from becoming a team that was just outstanding and hard to beat, to completely unbeatable — winning the last two championships with Durant, with Durant taking home the last two finals MVPs. This year will be a completely different story, with Durant straining his calf in the second round against the Houston Rockets, it seemed that all hope was lost. But not when you have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson still on your team, with the Warriors winning 73 games the year before Durant got there but losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 7 games. The Warriors have leaned heavily on the big 3 of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green since Durant’s injury, with game one of the finals being the only loss they have had since.
The Golden State Warriors are down 1-0 in these finals, and in the five straight finals appearances have never lost game one. However, these Warriors with or without Kevin Durant know how to win on every level in the NBA, beating the OKC Thunder in seven games after being down 3-1 in 2016, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers without Curry for most of the series in the 2016 playoffs as well, or coming back from a 3-2 deficit against the Houston Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference Finals beating Houston on their homecourt. A lot of basketball has yet to be played in these finals.