2019 NBA Finals: 5 Thoughts on Game 4
The Toronto Raptors triumphed against the Golden State Warriors 105-92 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night. The Raptors team surprised most of the NBA community by winning both games in the Oracle, and now are in full control of the series at 3-1. With the contest going back to Toronto, the Raptors have a golden chance at ending the Warriors dynasty in front of their home ground.
Kawhi Leonard was again a star in Game 4 of the series, but here some of the other most important thoughts from Friday night’s game.
1. The Warriors don’t have enough scoring outside of the Splash Brothers
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson desperately need help scoring the basketball. The two all-star guards combined to score 55 of the Warriors 92 points in Game 5. The next highest scorers were Draymond Green and Kevon Looney with 10 points each. The defending champions obviously lost a huge part of their offense when Kevin Durant went down with his “calf injury”, and the team has struggled to replace the best scorer in the world.
The problem is an immense one, as nobody on the roster outside of the two guards are consistent scorers, and they will most likely have to rely on someone like Iguodala, Shaun Livingston or Quinn Cook having a scoring outburst.
2. Board Man gets paid
Kawhi Leonard continues to cement himself as one of the best players in the league, and maybe one of the best playoff performers in the long history of the National Basketball Association. Leonard played 41 minutes, and finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists and four steals on an efficient 11-22 from the field, 5-9 from 3-point, and 9-9 from the free throw line.
He had a team best +13 plus/minus, and was the main force stopping the Warriors many runs to get back into the game.
3. The Charity Stripe
Close basketball games are decided by a countless amount of different factors and forces; however one that undoubtedly has immense impact on a team’s ability to win a game is its free throw shooting.
The Raptors finished the game with a scorching 23-24 rate from the line. Leonard made all nine of his, Pascal Siakam went 7-7, Kyle Lowry went 4-4, and the whole Raptors team just looked confident from the line. The Warriors on the other hand shot a pretty dismal, 14-21, or 66.7% from the free throw line. Furthermore, DeMarcus Cousins, Alfonso McKinney and Kevon Looney all shot important free throws in the second half of the game — they went a collected 1-5.
4. Serge Ibaka made a huge difference
Serge Ibaka scored a collective 18 points in the first three games of the NBA Finals. The big man out of the Cameroon just couldn’t seem to find his spots against the swarming Warriors defense, and while he had made an impact on the defensive end, he was non-factor on the offensive end of the floor. That all changed in Game 5.
Ibaka finished the game with 20 points, four rebounds and two blocks in a superb 22 minutes of play. He made his one free throw, he made his one three pointer, and he went 9-12 from the field. The former Oklahoma City Thunder player scored some huge baskets down the stretch, and had the touch in the paint all night.
5. My take on the ramifications of a Toronto NBA Finals win
Only 11 times in the long history of the NBA playoffs has a team ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. And of course only once has that comeback happened in the Finals — in 2016 when the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to defeat the Golden State Warriors. It goes without saying that the Raptors are inches away from winning their first ever NBA Championship, and they’ll have two chances on their home court to do so.
If Toronto is able to achieve this, and it is still undoubtedly a massive if, I believe that it will be the defining moment in the way free agency plays out this summer. I’m a believer in the notion that if the Warriors fail to win their fourth championship in five years, it will actually have the effect of keeping this Golden State roster together. Winning another championship in many ways would represent achieving all one can hope to do with a basketball team, players would move onto other opportunities and challenges. Kevin Durant would take his talents to Madison Square Garden, Klay goes with Steve Ballmer and the Clippers, and Boogie gets out of a place he never truly belonged. But if the Warriors lose, and they watch the confetti fall from Scotiabank Arena, and hear the Jurassic Park FanZone go wild outside, and have Drake run onto the court in a fit of insults and trash talking — it’s hard to believe that that collection of events wouldn’t light a fire in the pits of each one of those Warrior players stomachs to come back together next year and prove to the world that they are undoubtedly still the best.
Included within this storyline is the peculiar situation that Kevin Durant finds himself in. A man who sought pilgrimage to the Bay Area to lift the demons of an inability to win an NBA championship, to achieve exactly that, winning two championships in his first two years, but juxtaposed alongside the winning with an overnight transition into one of the most hated athletes in professional sports.
Who knows if Durant is going to return this series, to play a hero’s role, or to find himself too late in the face of an all around better Raptors team. My gut says he won’t suit up in this series, regardless if it goes seven games or only five games. But what I do know is the Warriors losing will give a better chance at Golden State keeping Durant than another championship. I just don’t believe that the Warriors showing Durant that they can win a championship without him — showing him that he isn’t a necessity for victory — would in any way inspire him to stay. But if they were to lose, and show Durant that he is now needed for this Golden State team to win titles, then that seems like a force that could keep KD in the franchise.