The 2019 NBA Finals has ended. In a way many couldn’t believe it would – with a championship celebrating the cage kingdom’s newest rulers, the surprising Toronto Raptors. The King is dead. Long live the King!!!
It had been a glorious run for Golden State’s wounded and weary Warriors. Imagine the spate of injuries handicapping this champion team: from arguably one of the best basketeers in the land in Kevin Durant; to another all-star in man-mountain DeMarcus Cousins; to the veteran and also another all-star in Andre Igoudala; to the vastly-improved Kevon Looney; until finally, to that deadly gunner and yet another all-star, Klay Thompson. That this team was able to give the Raptors a good run for their money – despite the merciless barrage of injuries – is a clear testament to their true Warrior breed.
Kevin Durant wasn’t fully fit to fight in that fateful Game 5. But like a wounded soldier checking out from the hospital, he chose to go back to the frontlines to gut it out with his comrades-in-arms. (Read: To Play Or Not To Play: Durant’s Damning Dilemma) His heroic performance in that game – playing 12 precious minutes while scoring 11 points before being felled with a career-risking achilles injury – will be debated for a long time. (Read: Respect to Kevin Durant, Woe to the Warriors)
DeMarcus Cousins missed much of the regular season due to a variety of injuries. In only the second game of the playoffs, he is felled by yet another leg injury. He too soldiered back to the frontlines to man the Warriors’ depleted trenches. He would make an indelible mark in the epic battles under the paint.
The veteran Andre Igoudala was suffering from a recurring lower leg injury, depriving him of much of his leaping ability. But the extra body, plus the veteran moves, were needed. He knew he had to fight. His clutch basket in the closing seconds of Game 2 would provide the needed cushion leading to the Warriors’ crucial win that night.
Kevon Looney played with a dangerous collarbone fracture suffered in Game 2. The physical action under the paint would make every hit, every small bump, every grunt a big pain. No matter. Kevon played on.
And finally, it had to be that other half of the much-vaunted Splash Brothers – that super-sniper and yet another all-star, Klay Thompson. As Klay crashed down to a fearful knee injury in Game 6, DeMarcus Cousins thought: “It was like: who is going to die next?”
Cousins’ remark summarized the Warriors’ nightmarish injury-marred Finals run. It must have been like running the gauntlet. Fighting to finish, knowing there will be hits, anticipating the pain, yet hoping for the best.
The Warriors’ 2-year reign has now been snapped. This unfortunate injury-riddled Finals run will be one to forget for the Warriors. Will this be the end of the Warriors’ dynasty? Will they come back for another run next year? My sense is that we haven’t heard the last from these heroic Warriors yet. As the late great coach Rudy Tomjanovich said: “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”
For a closer look, just click on the pics. (Pics courtesy of: KGTV, Sports Illustrated, East Bay Times, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Inquirer Sports, LA Daily News, Mercury News, News of the Day, Info.net, Clutch Points, Action Newsweek, Deadline, 1CNet, ABS-CBN News)