MANILA, Philippines – At this same time last year, the Golden State Warriors would have never imagined themselves to be where they are right now.
High off a convincing four-game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals, the Warriors were an early lock to clinch their third straight title after further boosting their almighty lineup with the signing of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
However, what was predicted as the Warriors' cakewalk ride to the title this year has hit snag after snag, and they are now on the brink of ending their dynasty against Kawhi Leonard and the finals first-timer Toronto Raptors. (READ: End of an NBA era looms as Warriors on brink of defeat)
As the East champs have cornered their Western foes right where they want them with a potential series decider at home, Kevin Durant is still nowhere near ready to defend the crown.
Per reports by ESPN's Brian Windhorst, frustrations have mounted within the Warriors' camp as the two-time reigning Finals MVP apparently struggled in practice as he continues to fight through a strained right calf.
. @WindhorstESPN : “Durant just isn’t ready. His body isn’t ready. The trainers don’t believe it, he doesn’t believe it...” He says there’s frustration around the Warriors about the situation pic.twitter.com/NxfbbP8Dk2 — Rob Lopez (@r0bato) June 8, 2019
As Games 3 and 4 proved, not even 4 playable All-Stars are enough to stop the stone-faced Raptors with Leonard at the helm. For now, their fifth All-Star remains questionable as the series inches closer to Game 5.
All the Raptors need to do now is do the exact same things that brought them success the last 3 times. Leonard will always produce at an elite level, so it's up to his supporting cast to follow through. (READ: Raptors NBA crown can bring Canada hoops legacy full circle)
Whether it's from Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka, first-year head coach Nick Nurse has always squeezed out just enough strength from his wards to get wins time and again. They just need to clear one last hurdle and the Larry O'Brien trophy will finally be theirs.
Will the NBA Championship find its home outside the US for the first time ever or will the crumbling Warriors dynasty stave off a total collapse?
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2019 NBA Finals G5 - Curated tweets by RapplerSports