Warriors season of turmoil ends in tears
It was a season of turmoil and drama for the Golden State Warriors, from teammates verbally jousting on the court to injuries wrecking their championship hopes. The Warriors have had one of the most tumultuous NBA season’s in recent history, yet managed to keep fighting till the bitter end.
Before the 2018/19 season had even begun the Warriors had strengthened their numbers by bringing in center DeMarcus Cousins. The NBA world cried foul as fans and pundits deemed them too strong to beat. They would have five All-Stars to call upon when needed. This was one of the most talent-laden squads in NBA history; no team had ever fielded five All-Stars before. Cousins would only be available for the team after completing his recovery from a torn Achilles, but when he did arrive back late in the regular season his presence seemed to destabilize more than enhance his team.
With Cousins still out the Dubs’ season of discontent really started in November in Los Angeles when Draymond Green and Kevin Durant had one of the most intense verbal spats on court as the Warriors lost to the Clippers in overtime in a hard-fought regular season clash. The media went into overdrive on what this would mean for the team and their chances of keeping Durant heading into free agency. The questions kept coming up, ‘Is KD going to stay after that? What’s wrong with Draymond? Will the Warriors three-peat? Is the dynasty over?’ All of these were legitimate questions at the time, but then the team banded together and put that to one side as they focused on the remainder of the campaign.
Fast-forward to the end of the regular season and all of the tension around the internal struggles in Oakland had subsided. There was little talk about disunity or a lack of cohesion, the team might not have been firing on all cylinders but they were focused. With Cousins back in the line-up and contributing to victories, the Warriors finished as the number one seed in the Western Conference and knew that a date with the Houston Rockets lay in store for them if they got past the Los Angeles Clippers in the First Round. Fate had other ideas for Steve Kerr and the Warriors as Cousins then went down with a quadriceps injury in the series against the Clippers and it seemed his season was again over before it had started. The Warriors fought past the Clippers and won the series 4-2, next up was Houston.
The Rockets had run Golden State close last season and many felt they should’ve beaten the Warriors but for the cruel twist of fate that saw Chris Paul get injured in Game 6 in 2018. This was the rematch that many had anticipated would change the course of history. It did. But not in the way that some would have thought. The Warriors slayed the Rockets, who were lead by James Harden who was on another MVP-level tear. The Warriors won the series 4-2. But the real story was that they did it despite Durant picking up a calf injury in Game 5 and with Cousins still out. Durant’s injury became the turning point of Golden State’s postseason and perhaps even their legacy as a whole.
The reigning champions faced the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals and swept them, without Durant or Cousins playing a single minute. It looked like an ominous sign for the Toronto Raptors who had scrapped their way into the NBA Finals.
Injury then played a huge part in the Finals themselves as the Warriors came up against a fired up and ready for action Kawhi Leonard and his Raptors. The Warriors lost Game 1 after a stellar showing from Cameroonian Pascal Siakam, but they stole home court after winning Game 2 as Cousins made a sensational return from injury to score and rebound for his team. They headed back to Oracle Arena looking to impose their authority on the series. Instead they lost Klay Thompson to a hamstring strain for Game 3, an injury that he picked up in Game 2. The Warriors then proceeded to lose both of the contests on their home court, even after Thompson’s return in Game 4. Being unable to win at home would ultimately cost the Dubs.
Game 5 saw more drama for the Warriors as Durant was cleared to play, Warriors fans were confident that the natural order of things had returned. What followed was more injury heartache as Durant, who had looked good in his comeback, then ruptured his Achilles. It was a hammer blow for KD and for his teammates. They needed him back in order to repel the Raptors. The mood in the team darkened but they remained steadfast and this Warriors team fought on and won Game 5 in Toronto.
Then came Game 6, the final NBA game to be played at Oracle Arena in Oakland before the Dubs move to San Francisco. It was a tight game with little between the teams. Klay Thompson had sent a rallying cry for the Warriors fans to get behind their team. They responded in vocal fashion with Oracle awash in yellow and the decibel levels cranked up. But disaster then struck again for the home team. Thompson landed awkwardly after a dunk and torn his ACL. That knocked the stuffing out of the Warriors who still battled on but to no avail. The Toronto Raptors claimed a 114-110 victory in Game 6 to clinch their first ever title.
The Warriors season had promised so much but internal squabbles and major injuries to their star players put paid to any thoughts of a three-peat. There will be detractors who will say that other teams have also battled injuries in the Finals. Sympathy for the Warriors is not always given with some saying that even LeBron James had to do a bucket-load of heavy-lifting in the 2015 season after both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured. The season is over and the history that had beckoned has now been rewritten in the Raptors annuls. This might be the end of an era for Golden State, but they went down fighting.