It’s finally happened. No one truly believed it to be possible, but the Golden State Warriors are no longer NBA Champions. The Toronto Raptors finished off the Warriors 114-110 to clinch the championship in six games, and Kawhi Leonard toppled another empire.
The Raptors did everything right, playing an aggressive, swarming defense that keyed in on the Warriors’ stars. But what really sunk the Warriors, of course, were the injuries. Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles, Kevon Looney played most of the series with a fractured collarbone, DeMarcus Cousins rushed back from a leg injury that people thought would sideline him for the rest of the season, and Klay Thompson left Game 6 early with what would later be diagnosed as a torn ACL. It sucks that it came down to injuries, rather than an even strength series. Yet that’s basketball.
It was going to catch up to them eventually. The Warriors have played over 100 playoff games over the last five seasons, going the distance each year and winning three out of five possible championships. They’ve had remarkable injury luck over that span, with none of their main cast suffering any playoff injuries serious enough to keep them out for an extended period of time. But playing that many games takes its toll. Just ask LeBron James, who suffered the first major injury of his career the season after going to eight straight NBA Finals.
The Raptors earned this trophy, no doubt about it. The injuries don’t take away from the elite play of Leonard and the clinic of team basketball Toronto put on in each and every game. The Warriors just ran out of steam and luck. The grind of playing an 82-game season, followed by 20 or so playoff games, for five consecutive seasons wore away at Golden State until their bodies simply couldn’t take it anymore.
It was an excellent series, and Toronto deserves this championship as much as any franchise in the league. Everyone will wonder for years to come how the series might’ve turned out if Durant hadn’t gone down, or if Thompson wasn’t forced to exit an elimination game after coming through so many times in that exact situation. But, again, that’s sports. Injuries are inevitable. Five years after bursting onto the scene, the Warriors’ run of dominance finally caught up to them.