The Raptors Achilles Heel?
What do the Toronto Raptors need to do in order to finish off the defending NBA champions?
The 2019 NBA Finals have been a tale of two cities. For the Toronto Raptors of the North, the journey to the NBA Finals has been full of hard work, surprises, and dedication. For a franchise that has not yet won an NBA championship, the city of Toronto have been standing by their home team as if they have been in this situation before. Celebrities such as the Canadian icon Drake have bought into the new winning tradition that was inherited from Raptors superstar small forward Kawhi Leonard. After years of playing in San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard has shown the league why he has always deserved to be considered an elite NBA player. With another chance to win an NBA championship, Kawhi and the Raptors must dust off a determined Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson who seem to have their sights focused on winning their third straight title.
The Golden State Warriors have been the team under the microscope since the addition of the league’s best scorer in 2016. The acquisition of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant made the Golden State Warriors the new "gold standard." After three years of watching Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green dominate the NBA hardwood in the playoffs, the Warriors have finally met their match.
During the current NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors have found themselves down one game in the series that determines the success grade of each team involved. The sports world is persistent when it comes to reminding the star-studded team that there are no excuses why are not capable of winning multiple NBA Finals. In previous years, the Warriors have held to knock off harder opponents. LeBron James is still to this day the biggest nemesis of the Golden State team. When LeBron is on the floor, his skill becomes the biggest threat to a Golden State team that has assembled some of the league’s best players at their positions. In a year that the NBA Playoffs do not include a LeBron James appearance, many fans believed that the Warriors would accomplish their goal of becoming champions easily.
Easy is far from the word that accurately describes the challenges have had to deal with while playing in this year’s NBA Finals. Their star forward Kevin Durant has been dealing with a leg injury since the Western Conference Finals and did not reach the hardwood until the fifth game of the series, where he injured his Achilles. As a result, the first four games of the series were heavily dependent on the play of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Their identities in the NBA have been the "Splash Brothers," and have been reliant on their ability to shoot the three-point shot at will. With such tremendous accuracy and skill, it has been hard for most NBA teams to stop such a dangerous tandem.
The Toronto Raptors are a team that has found a glimpse of the winning recipe needed to beat the defending NBA champions. So far, The Raptors have been able to maintain a 3-2 lead on the seven-game series. It can be said that the Raptors victories could be attributed to their tremendous defense. When the Raptors were able to shoot the three-point shot with more accuracy than the Warriors, they have won the game. These patterns can be shown on the stat sheets of games one, three and four. When Pastel Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka are able to effectively play their role within the Toronto offense, the team is able to ride the talent of Kawhi Leonard in the fourth quarter. Although the team was able to start the series with a dominating start, the Warriors have begun to creep back into a series that most believed were closed.
In order for the Raptors to win their first NBA championship as a franchise, Kawhi Leonard will need help from his supporting cast of teammates. When two or more members are able to contribute at least 20 points, the Raptors have been able to win the ball game. The Raptors must make sure they do not expose any weak spots to a hot Golden State team who is willing to expose their "Achilles heel."