Golden State failed: the Californian franchise that dreamed of a rare third consecutive NBA title dropped to newcomer Toronto (4-2), a scathing failure due in part to the injuries of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
Stephen Curry and his team-mates have not managed the “three-peat”, the three pass in the jargon of the NBA. Only the Minneapolis Lakers (1952-54), the Boston Celtics (8 titles in a row between 1959 and 1966), Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls (1991-1993 and 1996-98) and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers (2000- 02) have achieved this feat.
. The soap opera Durant
Kevin Durant only played twelve minutes in the 2019 final, but he was one of the major players.
He first missed the first four games with a calf tear on May 8 during the second round tie against Houston.
For his return on the floor after a month of absence last Monday, the lanky winger quickly found his benchmarks with eleven points in the first quarter.
But he was injured from the beginning of the 2nd period, still on the right leg, but this time with the Achilles tendon. The diagnosis fell two days later: rupture of the Achilles tendon which will be worth to the best player (MVP) of the Championship 2015 an absence of eight to twelve months.
Without his best scorer, Golden State eliminated Houston (4-2), then swept Portland in the conference final (4-0).
But in the final, the Warriors suffer in defense and lose three of the first four games, including two at home. In spite of the shock of Durant’s injury, they offered a reprieve by ripping off a near-miss victory in Toronto on Monday, before falling to N.6 (114-110) weakened by Klay Thompson’s knee injury.
.Summer will be hot
The Warriors ride in the conference final (4-0) had revived a debate long extinct: are not they better without Durant?
Their defeat in the final definitely answers this question.
Durant, who joined Golden State in 2016, can terminate his last year of contract and negotiate a new, significantly upgraded contract with the Warriors ($ 221.3 million over five years) or another team.
Except that his serious injury and his long absence completely change the situation.
He could now go to the end of his contract and convalesce in San Francisco Bay, unless a team bets to offer him a miraculous contract without really knowing if he will find his best level.
The New York Knicks were in pole position to welcome him.
Klay Thompson and the pivot DeMarcus Cousins will be “free agents”, but the first has made his career at Golden State and is not seen leaving, while the second, back from a serious injury, and then injured in play-offs , did not really manage to win.
. The beginning of a cycle
More than the end of a cycle, this 2019 final could mark the beginning of a new one.
The Warriors have certainly been dominated by the Raptors and have gone through turbulence in the regular season, such as the four straight defeats in November, never seen since the start of Steve Kerr’s nomination in 2014, but they will enter a a new era by moving to a new venue this summer in the heart of San Francisco.
Without Durant, injured or gone under other skies, Golden State will still have in its workforce one of the best three-point shooters in history, Stephen Curry (31), Draymond Green (29) and undoubtedly Klay Thompson (29 years old).
His five major has shoulders broad enough to aim for a new title, provided to strengthen the position of pivot.
Kerr is going to have to beef up his bench which showed signs of weakness and which could lose two important players.
Veterans Shaun Livingston (33) and Andre Iguodala (35) could indeed hang up. But 23-year-old Kevon Looney showed him he had the stature to hold and embody the future.
“It’s hard to lose a final, but our story is not over,” said Curry.