Everyone thought the 2019 NBA Finals would be an enormous letdown for two reasons; it was the first time in 9 years LeBron James wasn’t in the Finals and the second being the Golden State Warriors winning it all seemed to be a foregone conclusion since the playoffs started.
But LeBron James or not, this has been the most exciting NBA playoffs in years with a slew of incredible buzzer beating shots like the ones by Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard. And the injuries to Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins certainly made the playoffs more competitive.
So here are some takeaways from the NBA Finals thus far.
Steph Curry is making a case of being the best player in the world
When Kevin Durant went down during Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals when the Houston Rockets visited the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry admitted the original big 3 (Steph, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) all looked at each other with a smile. They weren’t happy their teammate was injured, but it was like getting the old 2016 band back together.
And it was exciting to watch. Steph was back to his old form. Klay’s shot totals and defense went through the roof. Draymond became the point forward and floor general. He’s been magnificent. The Golden State Warriors were playing their old hits and swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.
Curry became the go-to offensive threat when Durant injured his calf. He’s been unstoppable and averaged just over 36-points per game against the Blazers. Game 3 when the Raptors visited the Warriors proved to be a tall task for Curry. Too tall in fact.
Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney were all sidelined for the contest, which positioned Green and Curry to carry the load. Curry dominated the game with 47 points but it still wasn’t enough to overcome a healthy Raptors team.
It becomes more evident as the playoff goes on that Curry is without a doubt one of the premiere players in the NBA. If he didn’t have to share the ball then he could single-handedly carry any team all the way to a championship because he’s literally that good.
Raptors Supporting Cast is Deeper than the Warriors
The Toronto Raptors are long. Too long. Ridiculously long. They were the best perimeter defensive team in the league all year and proved in the Eastern Conference Finals they were a better all-around defensive team than the Milwaukee Bucks (The #1 rated defensive team all year). They just turned it up in the playoffs.
The Raptors bench is unique. Fred VanVleet has been sinking every shot. At one point during a five game stretch he was sinking 82% from 3-point land. And then you have Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell coming off the bench who could arguably be starting on most teams in the league.
They’ve also been hilariously defending Steph Curry with a box-and-one strategy and stifling him with double teams. No matter for Curry though, he keeps scoring, but the rest of his team is struggling in that department.
DeMarcus Cousins seems lost out there most of the time
DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins has been wildly inconsistent and you can’t blame it on rust any longer. He only played eight minutes in Game 1 and was largely ineffective, which was to be expected considering tearing a quad is nearly a catastrophic injury. It was shocking to see him return after only 45 days.
Cousins came out swinging in Game 2 though; getting the start and racking up 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists over 28 minutes. It wasn’t a high volume scoring game like he’s used to but he played his role alongside the prolific scorers and did it at a high level. Also, his passing ability was eye-popping in this game.
And then came Game 3. It was a disastrous night for Cousins. Some nights players just don’t have it but can still affect the game on a defensive level, but Boogie couldn’t do either. He was a liability on the floor throughout the entire game finishing with 2 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 19 minutes.