We have that and more in Saturday’s NBA newsletter.
The Raptors beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena again on Friday to take a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. And we all know — especially the Warriors — that 3-1 leads in the NBA Finals are completely insurmountable, so Toronto is really, really close to bringing an NBA championship to Canada.
The Raptors did it on the back of Kawhi Leonard (who else?), Serge Ibaka, and their incredible defense. Kawhi had 36 — he’s averaging 30 in the Finals — and Ibaka was the Raptors star role player du jour with 20. It turns out having like six all-world defenders plus the closest thing this planet has in a Steph Curry irritant in Fred VanVleet really matters. The Warriors scored just 92 points in the game with 17 turnovers and shooting below 30 percent from long-range. Klay Thompson, back from one game off, had an efficient 28. Curry had 27 on middling efficiency (for Curry). Klay went 6-10 from three. The other Warriors (including Steph) combined to go 2-17.
The Raptors took control in the third quarter, in what would be considered a Warriorsesque fashion. They strangled Golden State by forcing turnovers and running the Warriors off the arc while scoring almost at will. Kawhi and Serge themselves outscored the Warriors in the quarter; Toronto took a 12-point lead into the fourth, where they held on. A bunch of Warriors fans in the lower level left early in what could have been the final game ever at Oracle Arena, allowing the traveling Raptors fans to get loud and loose for the buzzer. Bad look, Warriors fans in the lower level who left early!
Game 5 is Monday in Toronto. The Raptors have three chances to clinch the title. Unbelievable.
All Hail KD?
It’s impossible to watch how this series has gone and not wonder if the Warriors would have beat the Cavaliers in 2017 or the Rockets in 2018 without Kevin Durant. The Raptors are trucking the Warriors right now. Maybe Toronto would have won even if Durant had been available. Maybe not.
Durant has had an odd legacy in Golden State, but it’s hard to imagine anything burnishing his credentials more than the Warriors falling way short without him. In fact, the only thing that could do more for Durant’s Warriors legacy at this point if he returns and Golden State rattles off three straight wins to win the series.
In reality, Toronto is better than the 2017 Cavaliers and more trustworthy than the 2018 Rockets, so retrofitting past performance onto this series is dangerous. Altogether though, it’s inevitable that the results here will impact how we consider Durant’s role and the Warriors’ quality in the past.
Rest in peace to Dr. John. Legend.
Needless to say, there has been some movement on our eight questions that will decide the future of the NBA.
Paul Flannery on how you don’t miss Klay Thompson until he’s gone.
I wrote about how the timing of the Anthony Davis trade affects everything else happening this offseason. Are the Lakers the last team in the Davis sweepstakes?
Mike Prada with a breakdown of how Kawhi Leonard prevents the Warriors from being the WARRIORS. Zach Lowe on a similar topic after Game 4.
Kristian Winfield writes that adding Kyrie Irving could cost the Nets their identity.
The Warriors are letting the Raptors shooters get too hot.
The NBA Finals have never seen a coach like Nick Nurse.
Contract extension for Bucks GM Jon Horst. Seems smart!
Michael Powell on the stories Hubie Brown can tell.
Meet the Canadian tattoo artist responsible for a lot of great ink in the NBA.
Ricky O’Donnell on Bol Bol’s star potential.
The Kawhi trash talk generator the internet deserves.
Programming note: no GMIB until Monday, but The Hook will be up on Sunday morning.
Friends and enemies, be excellent to each other.
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