The Toronto Raptors are just one game away from doing what only one team has done before in the past four years: Dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
After the teams split the first two games in Toronto, the Raptors stole both games in Oakland for a commanding 3-1 lead. Sound familiar, Cavs fans?
It should certainly sound familiar to Warriors fans.
Aside from Kawhi Leonard’s dominance in this series (he’s averaging nearly 31 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game on 45% shooting), the overwhelming storyline and reason behind the Raptors’ lead are the injuries the Warriors have dealt with.
After a quarter and a half in game five, Durant reinjured his ankle after missing the first four games and is out for the rest of the series and Klay Thompson missed Game 3 with a hamstring injury.
Speaking of sounding familiar, remember when the Cavs lost Kyrie Irving after Game 1 and didn’t have Kevin Love for the entire Finals series in 2015? Because I sure do. Even still, LeBron pushed the Warriors to six games almost single-handedly.
When that series was over and Golden State won the first championship of its dynasty run, no one outside of Cleveland wanted to talk about the impact those injuries had. No one said, “What if Kyrie had stayed healthy? What if Kevin Love hadn’t had his shoulder popped out by Kelly Olynyk in the first round?”
The narrative was incredibly different, however, in 2016 when the Cavs won the title. Everyone wanted to know how differently the series would have turned out if Draymond Green hadn’t been suspended for Game 5 with the Warriors holding the now infamous 3-1 lead.
And sure, putting fandom aside, I’m willing to admit that Cleveland probably wouldn’t have been able to turn the tide if Green had played. But guess what? He got himself suspended by acting like he did and opened the door for that comeback.
This time, though, there can be no talk about what would have happened if Durant stayed healthy. No conversations about Thompson missing Game 3 and if that could have helped the Warriors level the series at 2-2.
Golden State won its first championship and made another Finals without KD and while of course having the second-best player in the league is going to make any team better, it’s not like he played the first game or two before getting injured. The Warriors had three weeks to prepare for life without Durant.
Not having Durant isn’t an excuse for the Warriors’ lack of bench production this series nor for Leonard or Kyle Lowry playing next-level basketball these first four games.
Warriors’ players and national media are already talking about whether Golden State can become the second team to come back from a 3-1 deficit. You know what? If the Warriors can, more power to them. Even with Durant that would have been an impressive accomplishment.
Under the same circumstances, if the Warriors can’t do the impossible, they get no asterisk and no “What ifs?” Lord knows the Raptors wouldn’t get any if they lost the series without Leonard or Lowry playing.
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