Following the Toronto Raptors’ historical victory in Game six over the Golden State Warriors last Thursday, celebration has spread across the nation like wildfire. Despite playing four perfect games in this series, many still believe that the Raptors franchise doesn’t deserve to be celebrating the NBA Championship win too much since they were facing an injury-stricken Warriors team.
Kevin Durant’s injury was the most notable. Durant is a talent like none other in the NBA — he is one of the few seven-footers who can move as fast and fluidly as any guard and shoot both 35 per cent and from beyond the arch. However, Raptors fans made the argument that in the regular season the Raptors defeated the Warriors, both with and without Kawhi. Durant was present for both those defeats. However, the regular season is not a great indicator of post-season results between teams.
An example was the game between the Raptors and the 76ers. In the regular season, the 76ers were 1 – 3 against the Raps and each of the losses was by a double-digit margin. No one would have thought that the series would be decided by a nail-biting miracle shot made in the final four seconds of the fourth quarter of Game Seven.
Similarly, if Durant had been active in this series, he would have been able to add to the Warriors’ destructive offense. Durant was having his best NBA playoffs run of his career. before the injury, he was scoring the best of his playoffs career at a field goal percentage above 50 per cent.
With Durant playing at his personal best level, the Raptor’s defense would be under pressure of a three-headed attack, with both Curry and Klay who were shooting 41 per cent and 54 per cent respectively, in this series. The numbers for Curry and Klay would have only gone higher since the defense wouldn’t be able to double team them due to the risk of leaving the added threat of Durant open.
The end result would have been an almost unstoppable offense which we have seen in the playoffs for the past three post-seasons.
As far as celebrating the historic championship victory is concerned, the players do deserve some celebratory right as they played as hard as their level of talent allowed. However, a full-strength Golden State Warriors team would have had a three-peat. The Raptors players were lucky to be facing an injured Warriors team.
Conversely, the Raptor’s President, Masai Ujiri, deserves all rights to celebrate this championship win. Making strategic trades when necessary proved to be the difference between GSW and the Raptors. The Warriors allocated all resources into acquiring an all-star starting line.
After all the injuries in the finals, Curry and Klay ended up scoring just under half of all the Warriors’ points for the whole series. That is what happens when you put two gems in a pile of trash. Ujiri was concerned with making his roster deeper for situations where there were injuries and ups and downs in individual performances. For the way that events played out in this year’s finals, the Raptors’ victory is highly attributable to Ujiri’s genius.
Muhammad Saifuddin Hashmi
Civil Engineering and Environmental Studies