Last night, the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship in franchise history. In a few years, that is all we’ll remember. The Raptors dethroned the most talented team ever assembled. Today, all of us know the truth. The Toronto Raptors won for one reason and one reason alone: injuries.
The irony in all of this is beautiful. Last year, the San Antonio Spurs dealt Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected 1st round draft pick. The consensus was that the Spurs won that trade. Kawhi Leonard sat out close to the entirety of the 2018 season and at the time, he was a year from being an unrestricted free agency. He was the injury icon of the NBA.
This year, the Toronto Raptors defeated a Golden State team that was missing both Kevin Durant and an injured Klay Thompson for a majority of the series. In fact, had Klay Thompson not torn his ACL last night with a little over two minutes to go in the third quarter, we’d probably be having a different conversation today. The truth is that they outplayed a shell of the Golden State Warriors. If they had to play the Golden State Warriors we all know and hate, the NBA would probably have seen a three peat champion in the Warriors.
The irony in all of this is how it happened. After all the criticism Kawhi Leonard received, he never let it get to him. He got his rest and he made sure he was healthy. Kevin Durant, however, did just the opposite. In game five, Durant reentered the series down three games to one. After scoring 11 points in the first quarter, Durant went down and what we all knew had come true. Kevin Durant had torn his Achilles’ tendon and he never should have suited up for this series.
Where Kawhi Leonard had the foresight to know better, Kevin Durant did not. While the Warriors exhausted themselves this season, the Raptors did not. While the best in the west deteriorated, the Raptors rose to the occasion and thrived. Injuries are a part of this game and so the Raptors won this series. It is a part of the game to make sure you are healthy come title time. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard head to free agency in the summer. Only one of them, has no fear of what an updated physical will do to their contract negotiations and he’s an NBA champion.