This could be the end of an era ladies and gentlemen
Toronto Raptors (3-1) vs Golden State Warriors (1-3): 105 to 96
The Raptors have now walked into Oracle arena twice in a row and conquered the defending repeat champions.
Klay returned with a solid 28 points on 11/18 shooting and Steph pitched in 27 on 9/22 shooting, but the Warriors looked shallow, exhausted and inferior. The lack of depth that comes about when you’re missing your best player, have another all-star at 50% physical ability (BOOOOGIE!) and have two other key players rushing back from recent injuries is begining to bury the Warriors.
This is without thinking about the fact that the Warriors have played the entire postseasons for the last 5 straight years.
The Warriors are already, undoubtedly one of the greatest teams in the history of the league, but perhaps backing it up in 5 straight finals is far too much even for this great team.
What’s the evidence in this game in particular? Well the Raptors ran the trationally fast paced Warriors off their feet in the first half, leading them to totally break down in the second.
Kawhi continued his playoff dominance with a 36 and 12 on 11/22 shooting, supported by a huge performance from Serge Ibaka (20 on 9/12) and some elite defensive team play to hold the Warriors under 100 points.
Kawhi’s average of 31 points joins five other greats with the same average or above with a minimum of 17 games played (in other words, in a deep playoff run). Jerry West in ’70, Jordan in ’89, ’91-’93 and ’97-’98 (holy crap), Hakeem in ’95, Iverson in ’01 and Lebron in ’17 and ’18.
Kawhi, LeBron, Jordan and Hakeem are the only of those players to do so and shoot over 50% from the field.
Let’s add context to those totals as well. Kawhi is taking a team that has never been to the finals before to the brink of a ’04 Pistons-esqe championship that retires a great legacy team. He’s exhibiting Duncan like consistency and his personality is beginning to rub off on his teammates. Just look at how Kawhi like his team mates are as they walk off the floor after game 4.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Lowry and Van Vleet have been to 5 straight finals before. Toronto as a city is on fire with excitement for a potential first NBA title, Drake is posting wild videos calling out Warriors players, Jurassic Park is jumping at every made basket and the whole of Canada is collectively losing their minds.
But the Raptors act like this. Like the Terminators they have played like.
Like the machine Kawhi is.
I risk being incredibly wrong and being one of the people that counted the Warriors out at this point, but this is the Raptors championship to lose now.
As they head home in game 5 to clinch the title in front of a starving Canadian crowd, you would hope that the Raps can control their excitement and finish the job.
Next Game @ Canada: Tuesday (11/6) at 11am AEST