Will it end today?
IT could well end today – We The North.
In the first of three opportunities, the rampaging Toronto Raptors look to capture their first National Basketball Association diadem Tuesday, June 11 (PH time), when they host the floundering two-time reigning NBA titlist Golden State Warriors in Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at the Scotiabank Arena.
The Raptors, who joined the league in 1995-96, lead the Warriors, 3-1, in best-of-seven championship series following a pair of convincing victories, 123-109 and 105-92, in the third and fourth games, respectively, at the Warriors’ 47-year Oracle Arena.
Kawhi Leonard, who is a cinch for the Bill Russell trophy that goes to the Finals Most Valuable Player awardee for the second time in his eight-year pro career, led six Raptors – including all five starters in double-digit scores in Game Three with 30 points (9-17 FGA, 2-6 3FGA and 10-11 FTA), seven rebounds and six assists. His fellow All-Star, playmaker Kyle Lowry, broke away from a slump with 23 points (8-16 FGA, 5-9 3FGA) and nine assists, and wingman Danny Green, who along with 2014 Finals MVP Leonard and the now-retired Tim Duncan help lead the San Antonio Spurs to their most recent championship with a 4-1 drubbing of LeBron James and the Miami Heat five years ago, exploded for six triples and 18 points. This offset the brilliant performance registered by Stephen Curry – who with the absence of his injured co-Splash Brother Klay Thompson – exploded for a playoff career-high 47 points (14-31 FGA, 6-14 3FGA and 13-14 FTA), eight boards and seven dimes in 43 minutes.
In Game Four, Toronto gave Golden State – famous of its third-quarter offensive explosion – a dose of its own medicine by outscoring the Dubs, 37-21, in the third canto to head into the payoff period with a 79-67 advantage that Golden State could only trim to no less than eight points the rest of the way. Leonard, who scored 17 points during the quarter and finished with a game-high 36 (11-22 FGA, 5-9 3FGA and 9-9 FTA), a dozen rebounds and four steals.
The Warriors, who are headed to the newly-built Chase Center in San Francisco next season, actually shot better than the Raps – .449 (35-78 FGA) to .419 (36-86 FGA) – and also won the rebounding race (42-38), got Thompson back on the floor after missing the previous game with a mild left hamstring strain and he responded with 28 points (11-18 FGA, 6-10 3FGA). Curry added 27 on a 9-for-22 field clip, including 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.
In four games, Leonard is averaging 30.8 points on a field goal percentage of .447 (33-73 FGA) from the field, including .400 (12-for-30) from deep, and a free-throw accuracy of .936 (45-for-48). The 6-foot-7 forward is also contributing 10.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists every time out.
Down 3-1, Golden State is trying to become only the second team in NBA Finals history to capture the title after falling behind 3-1 in the championship series. The Cleveland Cavaliers, behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, were the first to accomplish the feat, turning in the trick against the same Warriors during the 2016 Finals.
First things first, the Warriors need to steal another road game in the series today (after their Game Two victory) if the above scenario were to happen. The one thing that hoop fans want to know is this: Will Golden State finally get back reigning back-to-back Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who has been missing in action in the last nine games due a strained right calf? And if so, will KD be as effective and efficient after a month-long layoff?
Even if it emerges victorious in Game Five, the Bay Area outfit needs a third win away from home (in Game Seven) to complete a comeback and secure a third straight NBA title and fourth overall in five years. A tall order it will be.
If necessary, Game Six will be held on Friday, June 14 (PH time), at the Oracle Arena and a seventh game on Monday, June 17 (PH time), back at the Scotiabank Arena.
Will all of Canada be celebrating the Raptors’ ascension to the NBA throne by this afternoon? The trash talk among Filipino fans continues even after the country had retrieved its filthy garbage from local soil.
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Many local hoop fans from the younger generation do not have any idea why the hardware that goes to the National Basketball Association (NBA) champion is named the Larry O’Brien trophy.
This trophy is so named in honor of the American professional league’s third commissioner Lawrence (Larry) O’Brien following his retirement in 1984.
Maurice Podoloff (the NBA’s Most Valuable Player trophy is named after him) and J. Walter Kennedy (the league’s Citizenship Award is named in his honor) were the first and second commissioners, respectively. David J. Stern, who succeeded O’Brien, was the fourth and the current czar, Adam Silver is the fifth in the NBA’s colorful 73-year history.
Before his NBA stint, O’Brien had been involved in U.S. politics. He gained instant world recognition in the early 1970s because of the infamous Watergate scandal that resulted in the downfall of an American president.
At the time, O’Brien was the U.S. Democratic Party chairperson. It was his Watergate headquarters that was burglarized in 1972 at the height of the American presidential elections.
Richard Milhous Nixon (from the Republican Party) was re-elected U.S. president on November 7, 1972, gathering over 60 percent of the popular votes in one of the largest landslide election victories in American history with his defeat of then-South Dakota Senator and Democratic Party challenger George McGovern.
Nixon, though, was forced to resign on August 9, 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment and removal from office for his role in the subsequent Watergate cover-up. Nixon was the only American president to resign the office.
After quitting politics, O’Brien joined the NBA in June 1975 as its commissioner upon the retirement of Kennedy. He served as the league’s top official until February 1984.
When O’Brien announced his own retirement, the NBA Board of Governors voted to name the championship trophy in his honor.
The handcrafted trophy was initially called the World Championship Trophy and was launched in time for the NBA Finals between the eventual titlist Portland Trail Blazers – who were powered by Finals MVP Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and playmaker Lionel Hollins, who along with Jason Kidd is now an assistant coach with the downtrodden Los Angeles Lakers under newly-minted head bench strategist Frank Vogel, who in April succeeded Luke Walton, Bill’s son – and the Philadelphia 76ers, who were bannered by bookend forwards and future Hall of Famers Julius Erving and George McGinnis, both of whom started their pro careers in the old American Basketball Association.
A side note: The 1977 Trail Blazers won their only NBA crown so far in franchise history and are one of only four clubs in NBA Finals history to capture the NBA title after rallying from a 0-2 series hole (the others being the 1969 Boston Celtics, 2006 Miami Heat and 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers).
The NBA decided to create the two-foot, 20-pound trophy, which is finished with 22-carat gold over sterling silver and depicts a basketball in motion over a stylized segment of a hoop and a basket, following the absorption of the four ABA franchises – the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and New York (later New Jersey and now Brooklyn) Nets into the NBA during the 1976-77 season.
The Larry O’Brien hardware, which is kept by the title-winning squad on a permanent basis, is actually the second symbol of NBA supremacy.
The first was a huge punch bowl named after Walter Brown, the first owner of the Boston Celtics and one of the NBA’s founders.
It was awarded from 1964 through 1976, with each champion getting custody of the trophy for just one year.
The Walter Brown trophy is now on display at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the name of each NBA champion is inscribed annually.
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