The Toronto Raptors had a chance to close out the 2019 NBA finals at home on Monday night but couldn’t get it done. The big news going into the game was that Kevin Durant was back in the lineup and with no minute restrictions. Having not played for almost 30 days nobody knew what Durant we would see but he quickly reminded us by pouring in 11 points in 12 minutes. Then disaster. After a quick move on Ibaka, Durant immediately pulled up before hitting the deck grabbing at his ankle. Everybody knew what it meant straight away. It was his achilles and it was bad.
The game continued without Durant and with a superb effort from Cousins off the bench the game was close heading into the 4th quarter. A quick 10 point from Kawhi looked to have one it for Toronto but Nick Nurse called a timeout which, if the Warriors win this series, will go down as one of the worst ever. It seemed to totally kill the momentum and a quick run from the Warriors got them back in it before back to back 3 point daggers from Steph and Klay put them up by three. Raptors had a chance for the final shot but a great defensive play from the Warriors lead to a fingertip block from Draymond Green on Kyle Lowry to give game 5 to Golden State.
After the game Steve Kerr point it perfectly “An incredible win and a horrible loss”. Everyone was visibly shaken after the game. It was clear they understood what the injury meant and that Durant has likely given up a year of basketball to try and help his teammates win. The injury obviously affects the rest of this series. The warriors will have to complete the comeback without him and will use this as huge motivation in game six at Oracle. The Raptors will continue to believe they are the better team but the pressure is on now and a game seven against the champions aught to be avoided.
However this series ends the Durant injury will have repercussions that extend well into the offseason. Its no secret that the Knicks have been preparing to offer Durant the chance to join them this summer. How much does an achilles injury and likely a year of rehab affect their appetite for the back to back finals MVP. If I’m New York I still offer him the max but it just went from a sure fire success to a potential risk.
The one option that was almost certainly off the table before the injury was Durant picking up his player option and staying in Golden State without signing a new deal. This would give him the security to rehab in a place he knows whilst still making $30 million next year. Would be brutal for the Warriors if he picks it up, rehabs for the year then leaves next summer without playing another game for Golden State. That would be around $70 million committed between Curry and Durant and remember that Klay’s deal is up this summer as well. With Durant on the books but not playing the Warriors will struggle to make any meaningful improvements to the team going into next year.
If Durant does leave, the team signing him will have to really think about what other moves they make. If its New York and you sign him, the plan was always to get a second star to join him, Kyrie Irving maybe? Now Kyrie would have to be OK essentially punting a year whilst Durant recovers. He would likely be the face of a Knicks team that will miss the playoffs and after how this year went in Boston that might be the final blow to the ‘can Kyrie lead a team’ narrative.
All that drama and we still have potentially two games left in the NBA finals. Oracle Arena will be rocking Thursday night but I think the Raptors will get it done and secure the first championship in franchise history on the opponents home court. That way we wont have to put up with Drake running around like a crazy person making it all about him. We can enjoy a trophy presentation and Drake can go on Instagram live a yuck it up with the fans. We all win.