Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Sun, Jun 16

Happy Father’s day; we’re still the mother fucking champions!

Forty thoughts and moments from the Raptors 40-to-1 championship – The Athletic

The Last Two Minute Report was clean. I feel like this is a wonderful morning-after blessing from the basketball gods. Four months without talking about the referees!

Toronto Raptors take long, humbling road to first NBA championship – Yahoo

Everything fell into place around Leonard. Kyle Lowry was miscast as a go-to player, but he was always a great right-hand man. Pascal Siakam, who averaged 20 points on 51 percent shooting in the Finals, picked the perfect year for a Most Improved Player campaign. Adding Marc Gasol at the deadline was a stroke of genius, as he gave them flexibility on both ends of the floor. Serge Ibaka and Danny Green slotted in as perfect veteran contributors ready to expand and contract their roles as needed. And there was the infusion of youth between Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell who were capable of making a huge impact off the bench. They weren’t a super team — they were just the right team at the right time.

It didn’t look like the makings of a champion at the outset, but they eventually grew into one. They traded dual identities for most of the regular season — it was the Raptors offense versus the Leonard offense — and it wasn’t until midway through the Milwaukee series when they finally married the two. But they stayed competitive throughout because the Raptors reinvented themselves as an elite defensive club, and that carried them through the very end.

There were plenty of challenges along the way, and it came down to a rookie head coach in Nick Nurse to solve them. Philadelphia dwarfed Toronto in sheer length, so Nurse came up with the dual center lineup. Milwaukee stretched the Raptors apart in the first two games before Nurse switched Leonard onto Giannis Antetokounmpo and turned the series into a sweep. Against Golden State, Nurse used middle school tactics to neutralize the greatest shooter in history. And more than anything else, Nurse needed every bit of his midwestern tranquility to keep the Raptors from never getting too high nor getting too low during this emotional title run.

As with any champion, the Raptors caught some breaks along the way. Joel Embiid’s immune system robbed him of his endurance. Mike Budenholzer was too arrogant to change his game plan. Siakam’s calf healed quickly, Leonard’s legs held up, and Lowry’s thumb was manageable. Meanwhile, the Warriors got 12 minutes from Kevin Durant and lost Klay Thompson in two separate fourth quarters. And of course, the rim at Scotiabank Arena was just soft enough to accommodate four bounces on Leonard’s prayer just to even advance past the second round.

Thoughts to consider while you are not worrying about the future: The Raptors are still NBA champions – The Athletic

The worst part of winning on the road

It might be more fun for the players to win on the road, giving the team an opportunity to have a closed-circle celebration — just players, coaches, staff members and family and friends. There are no responsibilities to be out on the town and make public appearances. The Undefeated’s Marc Spears reported the Raptors were en route to Las Vegas and then to Miami with Drake. As someone who has trouble “partying” for more than three hours at a time, I don’t know how the Raptors plan to keep up the endurance for so long. By the time they get back to Toronto before the parade on Monday, is it possible they will have anything left?

Alas, not every member of the organization gets to travel with the team. There were plenty of Raptors fixtures who could not be with the team on Thursday night. The one who really, really should have been there: The Raptor. He/she/it is a Day One Raptors employee, and he/she/it is just a few years removed from a tear of an Achilles tendon. No person/thing has brought more joy to Raptors fans in more meaningless games than The Raptor.

I hope the Raptors saved a bottle of champagne for he/she/it. If not, there is always Duty Free.

How Nick Nurse went from rookie NBA head coach to champion – Yahoo

The lack of panic

22 games missed for Leonard largely due to load management? No problem. 17 missed game for Kyle Lowry? Manageable. Add another 18 for Fred VanVleet and even more for Valanciunas while he was on the team and there was still never any sign of panic or frustration on the part of Nurse.

He consistently recalled how he hardly ever knew who would be available to him until close to tip-off at the developmental league level, so Nurse just looked at the injuries that befell the team over the course of the regular season as par for the course.

The Raptors faced series deficits in each of the first three rounds they played, and each time they came away with the four wins they needed to advance. They became the first team in NBA history to win the Larry O’Brien trophy despite trailing in each of the first three rounds, displaying a resolve and sense of poise unlike any team in the past.

Over and over, Nurse stressed the importance of taking each game as it comes. That there was never a need to get too low after a loss, nor any appeal to getting too high after a win.

Why Kawhi Leonard proved to be the difference for a uniquely constructed champion – The Athletic

“I wanted to make history here,” Leonard said, “and that’s what I did.”

Even if this turns out to be a one-year rental — and especially if this success turns into a long-term partnership — shipping out the beloved DeMar DeRozan for a player who only became available because he was somewhat damaged goods and his relationship had soured with one of the league’s model franchises was well worth it. Leonard’s presence has paid off immensely in changing the perception of the Raptors from decent team that can never be taken too seriously, to a championship organization that will enter next season as the favorite to win it again if Leonard decides to stay.

The Raptors stopped being the same old Raptors the moment Leonard arrived. Five seasons of postseason disappointment provided the incentive for players to improve, forced Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster to replace the players they had with the ones they needed to change the outcome. Leonard brought a calm, a singular focus, and a no-nonsense approach that pushed ancillary distractions towards the dust-bin. And, given his championship experience, Leonard brought credibility to the brand and confidence to the locker room.

“It means we’ve got the best player on the court,” Fred VanVleet said of what the addition of Leonard meant to the team. “Just takes so much pressure off the guys and he allowed us so much more freedom offensively and he made big plays defensively and the guy is just an amazing player. To have him on our side is a big help for us and once he opened up and trusted us and grew with our team, we took a big step.”

Leonard’s timely text to Lowry went a long way in Raptors’ championship season | The Star

They could not be much different personally, the 31-year-old from Philadelphia and the 27-year-old Californian. While hardly gregarious all the time, Lowry is a far more open book than Leonard is. They don’t share the same personal bond that Lowry and DeRozan did. They are different and theirs is a different relationship — not necessarily better or worse than any before it, in the enclave of the Raptors locker room.

The relationship was built on one common goal: the pursuit of excellence.

Leonard’s arrival meant Lowry’s load in the Raptors offence could be scaled back so that the gritty point guard could do what he does best: play hard and lead by example.

Lowry’s presence gave Leonard something of a kindred basketball spirit, someone to analyze the game and the team with.

“Probably out of everybody who I talk to about film, the most is Kyle,” Leonard said during the just-completed NBA Finals. “Me and him will watch film or talk to each other, see what we are seeing on the floor, either for ourselves or positions to make our teammates better.”

And that is the essence of their relationship: an intense desire to push themselves, each other and their team to untold heights. It’s been fun to watch it blossom, fun to see them take the Raptors to the team’s first championship. The gamble Ujiri took paid off, regardless of what the future brings.

The Leonard text may go down as one of the most significant small steps a Raptor has ever taken.

“The guys here have been making runs in the playoffs before I came, so I know they were a talented team,” Leonard said. ”And I just came in with the right mindset: Let’s go out and win ball games.

“I texted Kyle probably a day later — or the day that I got traded — and told him. I said: Let’s go out and do something special. I know your best friend left, I know you’re mad, but let’s make this thing work out.”

In a year all about offence, the Raptors proved defence (still) wins titles –

In 2015, the Stephen Curry-led Golden State Warriors won their first NBA title, launching a half-decade of near-unprecedented dominance.

In the regular season that preceded that 2015 championship, the Warriors led the league in scoring, averaging 110 points per game, a marked leap over the 107.9 per game the Los Angeles Clippers topped the NBA with in 2013-14.

Flash-forward to this past regular season, 2018-19, where the average scoring mark was 111.2 points per game, more than a full point over what the Warriors and their revolutionary pace, space, ball movement and three-point bombing style first established four seasons ago.

That 111.2 per-game average is the highest the NBA has seen since the 1970-71 season’s 112.4, when the league only had 17 teams. It’s a figure that indicates where the NBA is at right now and where it’s heading: A league built on spectacular offensive attacks, helped by more analytical data than ever before that tells coaches and general managers exactly how and where to execute from.

This is why what the Toronto Raptors accomplished on Thursday night was so remarkable.

In an era where getting buckets and scoring has never seemed easier and more efficient than ever before, the Raptors won an NBA title on the strength of their swarming, lock-down defence.

As it’s plainly illustrated, the Raptors’ D really tightened things up during this playoff run and finally lived up to the promise that had been teased before the team took a single dribble during last off-season as a special group of stoppers, improving defensively across the board.

Even more impressive than just looking at the overall picture, however, is looking at how the Raptors stymied their opponents in the post-season, suffocating any offensive hope or momentum their opponents may have been coming into their matchup with the Raptors to begin with.

2019 NBA Finals: Four lucky breaks that led the Raptors to the title – Raptors HQ

The East is Not Ready

Speaking of those East teams, it helped the Raptors out that they all had some sort of fatal flaw that undid them along the way. The playoffs have a way of finding those cracks in every team and having them turn into the thing that breaks them. Toronto fans have come to know this feeling quite well over the years.

Toronto never had to face the Celtics but it was clear by the second round that Irving and his squad of youngsters — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, et. al. — were not ready to come together in common purpose. They had too many people who needed the ball in their hands, too many guys who wanted to be the Guy. By the end of their series against the Bucks, Irving looked like he wanted to walk off the edge of the earth, and his supporting cast was looking like they wanted to help push him there. I don’t have any more pithy comments to make here, it’s just what happened.

Meanwhile, the Bucks, presumptive favourites in the conference, finally met their match in Toronto. It’s hard not to feel a bit bad at how things shook out for Milwaukee. They followed the championship textbook as closely as possible — MVP candidate, strong versatile group of do-it-all players, a strong offensive and defensive identity, shooting and play-making up and down the lineup. There was no reason they couldn’t have won it all. Except Kawhi eventually solved Giannis Antetokounmpo, and for all the Bucks’ firepower, they couldn’t get enough good shots off to counter what the Raptors were doing.

In this review, it’s actually the Philadelphia 76ers who stand out the most now. They had the size, and, for the most part, the shooting, to really put a scare into Toronto. Philly fans are rightly wondering what would have happened had Joel Embiid been fully healthy. If we’re being honest, the lowest moment of this post-season was definitely the day before Game 4, after the Raptors had been drubbed in the previous contest, and we learned that Pascal Siakam was questionable to play. That the Raptors managed to grind out that win, and then two more, is remarkable. That we’ll have The Shot to cherish for the rest of our lives is an added bonus.

Raptors on NBA title: ‘We don’t win without VanVleet’ | Toronto Sun

“I went back and watched some of the games. Maybe two of the Philly games I didn’t like. The others I didn’t get no shots, my minutes was down. I just stayed with it. I didn’t lash out at (head coach Nick Nurse) for not playing me. I didn’t get mad at Kawhi (Leonard) and those guys for not passing the ball,” VanVleet said.

“I just stuck with it, continued to work through it and understanding that Milwaukee series would be a different animal and just having my breakout series there and just trying to carry as much as possible going forward.”

Carry it forward was an understatement. The former Wichita State star was spectacular in Toronto’s final three games of the Eastern Conference Final against Milwaukee, hitting 14-of-17 three-point attempts in those games with nine assists and only a single turnover.

“Steady Freddie, man. They call him Steady Freddie for a reason. Amazing,” said assistant coach Phil Handy inside the Raptors locker room. “He’s a winner. You can’t really teach that. He went through the fire. To me guys like him, the intangibles is what they bring. They bring a winning spirit and that’s one thing I learned about Freddie the day I got here. He wants to win by any means necessary. The man earned his contract.”

VanVleet had signed a two-year extension with the Raptors worth about $18 million and finished third in Sixth Man of the Year voting last season, before battling through an injury-plagued campaign and early playoff struggles.

He was even better in the NBA Finals, averaging 14 points on 39.3% outside shooting, including crucial 5-for-11 work in the series-clincher on Thursday.

“Every shot you saw (Thursday) I’ve worked on that I’ve worked countless nights and countless days,” VanVleet said. “Two a days three a days in the summertime. Training camp, working all year and to have your teammates give you the ball have your coaching staff put you in positions to get the ball, it was great to be able to perform at a high level.”

Helwani explains what Raptors’ title means to all of Canada – Video – TSN

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani shares the significance of what Toronto’s championship means for basketball in Canada.

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard’s calm charisma — Quartz at Work

The New York Times today noted that “Toronto, a city filled with the success stories of immigrants and other bootstrappers who share Leonard’s work ethic, embraced the seemingly silent powerhouse.” That may be true, although one could easily substitute the name of any American city in that sentence. The work ethic in question is not unique to one country, and though it can be easy to forget in the Trump era, cool modesty is an American virtue, too. Not long ago, even the Oval Office had it.

Leonard’s humbleness runs deep. In a Sports Illustrated profile of the athlete, journalist Lee Jenkins writes of a high school-age Leonard who was unbothered by a reporter who routinely mis-credited one of his teammates with his points. It simply didn’t threaten him. He also wasn’t interested in the exposure a Nike camp was ready to give him, and he accepted San Diego State’s offer because it had recruited him first.

The picture Jenkins paints is something like a Warren Buffett of basketball, driving a fixed-up ’97 Chevy Tahoe instead of a Cadillac. Leonard, the writer says, has dismissed suggestions to lose his cornrows in order to lure more lucrative sponsorship deals. In a look-at-me era, he can’t be found on social media.

Jenkins even found a metaphor for Leonard’s lack of pretension in his name:

Though Kawhi Leonard was not named after Kauai, the garden isle on the northwest tip of the Hawaiian archipelago, he believes his father liked the sound of the place. Kauai is lush and bountiful, yet subdued compared with some of its overstated cousins to the south.

Does Kawhi Leonard deserve comparisons to Michael Jordan? – Sir Charles in Charge

There is one deciding factor that will determine if Kawhi Leonard is as good as Michael Jordan. That factor is dominance. Not just controlling a game, or making baskets when it counts. But can he dominate the entire league for an extended period of time? With young players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic barely scratching the surface of their prime, dominating the NBA for any length of time is going to be nearly impossible for Kawhi, regardless of the team he decides to sign with.

Michael Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals. It didn’t matter what the roster assembled around him looked like, he was going to make sure that his team got the job done in June. At some point in his career, Michael Jordan defeated every NBA superstar that stood in his way.

How NBA rosters are constructed today, that isn’t an easy feat for Kawhi. Even after defeating the Warriors in six games, the questions of what would have happened if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were healthy are certainly valid. Would Kawhi have defeated that roster at full strength?

Kawhi may never accomplish what it takes to be considered as good as Michael Jordan. Many great players have fallen short. Kobe Bryant lost in the NBA Finals twice. LeBron James has been defeated in the championship series six times. The era of their being one G.O.A.T is honestly something that only existed while Jordan was in the league.

Who is Masai Ujiri? Meet the Man Behind the Raptors’ NBA Charmpionship | Fortune

Ujiri is simply a “genius for such a boss move,” said Jalen Rose, a former Raptors star and current ESPN personality as he stood courtside watching scores of Raptors fans celebrating inside Oracle Arena Thursday night.

“I just told Masai that again—he’s a genius,” Rose said. “He changed the game and he rolled the dice like nobody we’ve ever seen in his position before. And, remember, he let Dwane go, too!”

That would be former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who Ujiri fired last May after leading Toronto to a franchise-record 59 wins before being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Casey was later named the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year and hired by the Detroit Pistons.

But Ujiri’s bold move was seen almost maniacal. Some thought it might soon be his job on the line when he dismissed Casey and hired the relatively-unknown Nick Nurse, a respected coach among players and his peers who had won championships in the NBA’s developmental league.

Before Thursday’s title-clinching victory, Nurse praised Ujiri for taking a huge chance on him.

“(Ujiri) set the goals very high for our organization, similar to what the goals that our staff and our players set, so that’s good to be in alignment with where we’re thinking, where we want to go,” Nurse said. “He’s put together a heck of a roster, and some great players and the blend is really good.”

Ujiri returned the praise to his team. “For me, it’s not all about the moves I made or we made, it’s about the players and the coaches and how they performed under such intense pressure,” he said. “I tell you our jobs isn’t as hard as their jobs.”

Ujiri, who came to the Raptors in 2013, the same year he won the NBA Executive of the Year award as the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, further said Thursday that as an executive you have to make sure the players mesh with each other and the team’s philosophy to have great chemistry.

“We can say potential all we want, but at the end of the day, sports is about winning,” he said. “You have to figure out that balance between younger players and veteran players, star players, and All-Star players, really a team effort.

“And then you have to be lucky.”

The Raptors are the champs. And it’s because of Masai Ujiri | The Star

Before he re-signed Lowry and Ibaka, Ujiri considered letting the kids have the run of the place. Before re-signing, Lowry had spent three months telling people he was leaving and had he found a different home, DeRozan would likely have been traded, too. Before the Kawhi deal, there was talk of trading DeRozan to the Clippers for their two late-lottery picks; the Clippers cut the talks off.

They won an Eastern Conference-high 59 games in 2018 and the Cavaliers swept them again, and after LeBron’s Game 3 running winner Ujiri charged into the coach’s room, yelling, furious. That was the end of that. He agonized, though, before firing Casey. He passed on Mike Budenholzer. He hired Nick Nurse. He wasn’t 100-per-cent sure, but he believed in Nurse. He liked that he wasn’t scared.

Then came Kawhi. Ujiri was in Kenya, the country of his mother, to open a basketball court with former president Barack Obama. During Ujiri’s tenure he has honoured Nelson Mandela, used his platform to fight for the Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram, advocated for the youth of Africa with his Giants of Africa foundation, pushed hiring women in powers of prominence in sports, reached out to and tried to help the First Nations kids in La Loche whose school was traumatized by a school shooting, railed against Donald Trump’s racism, and more. He is a man in the world.

Ujiri had been keeping an eye out for stars of varying brightness for years. He monitored whether Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins would ever grow up. He checked in on Blake Griffin, then a Clipper. He missed the window on Kyrie Irving. He wondered about Kevin Durant. Durant’s interest, through intermediaries, sank a lot faster than the Raptors allowed it to semi-publicly float.

There were more. They passed on Jimmy Butler; they never got a crack at Anthony Davis. There was a time, before Paul George was traded to Oklahoma City, where the Raptors were pretty sure they had the best deal on the table. But the Pacers wanted to send their homegrown star west.

Ujiri had built up the front-office — Bobby Webster, Teresa Resch, Dan Tolzman, more and more, an organization to be proud of — added the G League team and the practice facility, hired the best people he could find, stockpiled assets. He stayed ready.

WARMINGTON: Raptors president Masai Ujiri owed apology, not charges | Toronto Sun

Sgt. Ray Kelly, of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, tells the San Francisco Chronicle that a sheriff’s deputy was allegedly assaulted while trying to prevent a man without proper credentials from getting on the floor.

This officer “did not know who the man was and asked for the credential and that’s when he tried to push past our deputy and our deputy pushed him back, and there was another push that kind of moved up and struck our deputy in the face,” the sheriff’s office alleges.

Neither the Toronto Raptors nor MLSE have commented yet. But let’s get real here. This is ridiculous.

“Masai Ujiri one of the finest people I know,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “He’s incapable of uncivilized behaviour.”

Ujiri should never have been stopped in the first place. Hopefully there is a thorough probe, all sides are looked at and all video studied.

This is important since Rob Gillies, of The Associated Press, reported on Twitter that 61-year-old season ticket holder Greg Wiener said: “The thing about the cops saying the policeman asked for his credentials, that didn’t happen. There was no conversation at all” and the “part about striking him in the face, yeah that didn’t happen.”

So it’s a he-said, he-said scenario.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Wants To Charge Raptors Exec Masai Ujiri With Battery [Update] – Deadspin

The ASCO told USA Today this morning that it will pursue a misdemeanor complaint against Ujiri for battery of a police officer after he allegedly “struck our deputy in the face” when he shoved past him. Spokesperson Ray Kelly said they did not detain Ujiri on the court because they didn’t want to make a spectacle on national TV:

“We decided to take the high road in light of their victory but will submit a report for complaint,” Kelly said. “We’ve got two countries involved in this. It’s not something we wanted to have happen. It didn’t have to go this route.”

The case will now go to the district attorney’s office, which will hopefully decide that this is too embarrassing to take to the mattresses.

Here Are Some Cool Guys Who Are Now NBA Champions – Deadspin

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin was always more than a little trumped-up as a big-time player, but he’s a very good and useful NBA guard, and what has happened to his career over the past few seasons plain sucks. His 2016–17 season in Brooklyn was marred by persistent hamstring injuries, and then a devastating knee injury in Brooklyn’s first game knocked Lin out of the entirety of the 2017–18 season. A fresh start in Brooklyn was supposed to be Lin’s big chance at revitalizing his career as an NBA starter, but instead he played 36 total games in two years and went from being a clear-cut rotation guy to end-of-bench flotsam.

Lin found his way to the Raptors as veteran depth after he was bought out in Atlanta earlier this season, where he’d been backing up and mentoring Trae Young. He played exactly one minute in the Finals, and just about 25 total minutes in the playoffs, none of them meaningful. Still, it’s cool and good that a guy whose career has been so blown up by bullcrap injuries and Byron Scott now gets to be an NBA champion. Mom was proud!

There should be no asterisk on this Raptors championship – Clutch Sports

Toronto’s defense was just top-notch. As we have seen all season long, Toronto’s defense is very good.

Their suffocating defense made life difficult for Curry throughout the series, sending constant double-teams at him and blitzing him on pick-and-roll coverages. Surely, with Curry as the Warriors’ only threat for most of the series, it became easier for the Raptors to lock them down and force them into shots that they don’t normally generate.

Toronto also went through a lot in this run. It took the luckiest of bounces for them to get past the Philadelphia 76ers in the East semis, which was arguably their toughest series in these playoffs. They had to comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Heck, their postseason even began with a Raptors classic “oh no, here we go again” loss against the lowly Orlando Magic care of a D.J. Augustin walk off three-pointer.

If anything, all these speed bumps that the Raptors experienced along the way prepared them for the final test against the defending champs. They came together at the perfect time and displayed incredible chemistry and poise as the playoffs got deeper, especially in the Finals.

Make no mistake about it, the Raptors truly earned this championship. Go ahead, Toronto. Go ahead, Canada. Celebrate. This is yours. You deserve this. Savor it. No asterisks for sure.

NBA free agency: Will Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard stay in Toronto? – USA Today

Toronto Raptors
You would think what the Raptors did increased Leonard’s chances of staying, and perhaps he looks at a short-term deal and revisits free agency after next season. He turns 28 in two weeks and will be a sought-after free agent in 2020 if that’s what he wants.

They treated his health with the utmost care and provided a solid treatment plan that yielded results. By the end of the season, Leonard performed like a top-five player and capped the season with an NBA championship and his second Finals MVP. If Leonard returns, the Raptors can run it back with almost the same squad, plus a healthy O.G. Anunoby, and have a chance to repeat.

Knicks’ Kawhi Leonard free agency push starts with ‘Uncle Dennis’ – New York Post

“For Kawhi individually, after all we he went through last year and in the summer, this year was all about having fun playing basketball again,’’ Robertson told The Post. “He came to a team that embraced him and a country that embraced him. It was a team that worked hard and, at the end of the day, he won a championship. You got to feel good about that.’’

But not so good that he will re-sign with the Raptors just to defend a crown. Leonard is expected to explore his options, and the pull of returning home to Los Angeles and playing for Clippers coach Doc Rivers is very real.

The Knicks hope coach David Fizdale’s charm and his familiarity with New York from last season will be in their favor, too. Fizdale is also from the Compton area and he and Leonard both went to college in San Diego (Leonard at San Diego State, Fizdale at University of San Diego).

“Uncle Dennis’’ admitted this title run came as even a surprise to him.

“I had no idea,’’ Robertson said. “I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and say I knew it was going to happen. I knew they had a good team, knew if everything went well and stayed healthy, once the season got on, you always think have a chance.’’

After winning the title, Leonard, 27, declined to answer a free-agency question during the championship ceremony, saying he needed to enjoy this first. So whether winning the title has him leaning toward staying is unclear.

On Rachel Nichols’ ESPN show Friday, Leonard took the set with Kyle Lowry and joked: “After today they don’t want me here no more. They got what they got.”

Warriors vs. Raptors: Stats and Trends That Decided 2019 NBA Finals | Bleacher Report

The key for Toronto, though, was limiting everyone else beyond Curry and Thompson. The Raptors typically did exactly that, beyond the occasional surge from Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins.

And, yes, there’s the elephant in the room.

The Raptors have no motive to apologize. They should not be compelled to minimize their accomplishments. But no reasonable person will argue Toronto didn’t also benefit from enormous injury luck.

Golden State took advantage of such unfortunate issues to opponents in the past―Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul, notably―but felt the brunt of the pain in 2019.

Durant missed four games, then ruptured his Achilles in Game 5. Thompson missed Game 3 because of a hamstring injury and tore the ACL in his left knee in Game 6. Cousins barely recovered in time to start the series, and Kevon Looney played through a fracture near his chest after leaving Game 2 early and missing Game 3.

Nobody is suggesting the All-Star-filled Warriors should receive sympathy cards. But with suspect depth emerging as a problem during the regular season anyway, Golden State didn’t have enough quality on the bench to handle Toronto.

Did I miss something? We have a whole summer to catch up!

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