NBA Finals Game 5 Recap/Reaction

The Golden State Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors 106-105 to send the series back to Oakland for game 6 on Thursday night (look for a full recap of that game on our podcast on Friday). While game 5 was extremely exciting (Klay and Steph hit three key 3 pointers from the 2:30 to 1:00 minute mark in the 4th quarter and then held on), the Warriors lost Kevin Durant to an apparent Achilles injury early in the second quarter. That injury could impact not only this Finals but also this summer’s free agency frenzy.  Let’s look at the keys to game 5 first:

Golden State shot 20 of 42 from 3 (48%) including 7 makes in the first quarter (using the “Hamptons Five starting lineup”)  which helped set the tone. Durant scored 11 points in 12 minutes and was a perfect 3 for 3 from 3 until his injury.  Curry and Thompson combined for 57 points on 12 of 27 from 3. The “splash brothers” plus Draymond Green (10 points/10 rebounds/8 assists) all played 41+ minutes. Draymond deserves a special shout out for his defense, especially partially blocking Kyle Lowry’s attempt to win the game at the end. Boogie Cousins, who was not scheduled to play tonight given his struggles in games 3 and 4, scored 14 points and grabbed 6 boards in 20 minutes. He was terrific in the second quarter when Golden State needed the lift (after the Durant injury).  Kevan Looney played 18 minutes but left in the 3rd quarter after reinjuring his collarbone area (he plans to play in game 6).

Toronto was led by Kawhi Leonard (26 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists) in 41 minutes including scoring 10 straight points in the fourth quarter to put Toronto up 103-97 with roughly 2:30 left. Golden State scored nine straight points on 3’s to take a 106-103 lead with less than one minute left.  Toronto got it to 106-105 and had a chance to win but Draymond’s block of Lowry, after Iggy smartly double teamed Kwahi, sealed the win. Lowry had 18 points/6 assists in 42 minuts but only 1 of 6 from 3. Gasol 17 points and 8 boards in 31 minutes. Siakam 12 points in 34 minutes but 0-4 from 3. Quiet game from Danny Green (4 points in 33 minutes). Van Vleet made 3 of 6 3’s with 11 points but was a team worst -12.

NBA Free Agency Update

Let’s start with the impact of the Durant injury on his pending free agency.  Durant has a player option to return to Golden State for $31MM next season.  The Warriors need to sign Klay this summer, and Draymond next summer so look for a number of stories on the potential 2019/20 cap/luxury tax hit if Durant opts in with the Warriors (which was very unlikely until last night).  If his Achilles tendon is in fact torn, MRI results later today, KD would likely be rehabbing all of next season.  There are reports this morning that a number of teams (likely Knicks, maybe Nets and others) would be willing to sign KD to a 4 to 5 year max contract ($40-50MM/year) despite the injury and loss of the entire 2019/20 season.  Some of this will likely come down to Durant’s confidence in the prospective team’s medical staff.  We believe  the Durant injury could increase the price of the other summer of 2019 free agents as there is a ton of money chasing a limited number of healthy all stars.  There has also been conjecture this morning that Bradley Beal may become available as a trade piece to teams with cap space who see a chance to win it all in 2019/20. Has the average price for a 2019 free agent just increased? Are team doctors and rehab/sports science staffers now a source of competitive advantage? The league wide impact of a devastating injury to a top 3 NBA player will be fascinating to watch.

In other free agency news, Anthony Davis has apparently decided that he will only play for the Knicks or the Lakers long term (2020/21 season and beyond).  What does this mean for a team like Boston who has expressed a strong interest in Davis, how much would they pay New Orleans  for a one year rental-and how does Kawhi’s success in Toronto change the equation? Does this AD news lead to a bidding war between the Lakers (who can offer more talented young players) and the Knicks who can offer more draft picks (thanks to the Porzingis trade). New Orleans seems to be in a pretty good position here (Zion as #1 pick and Jrue Holliday as the core to build around) and both the Lakers and Knicks needing to get their dysfunctional management/ownership out of the headlines. There are rumors of a multi-team deal for Davis so watch closely.

One last free agency thought, Watch out for the Atlanta Hawks in the next few years.  They have a strong young core that they drafted: Tre Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins.  They have picks 8, 10 and 17 this year (may be looking to move up) and next year they will get out from under the Bazemore, Plumlee and Crabbe contracts which will give them two max slots.  Could they Hawks become a force in the East for years to come?