Have the Warriors lost their air of invincibility?

By George Davis, Mariah Ramharack & Lance Whittaker April 16, 2019

The Golden State Warriors have been thought to be untouchable in several seasons gone by but have they lost their shine?

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  • Leonard's experience made a difference, admits Antetokounmpo Leonard's experience made a difference, admits Antetokounmpo

    Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged that Kawhi Leonard's playoff experience was key to the Toronto Raptors' Eastern Conference Finals win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

    The series was billed as Antetokounmpo against Leonard - and the former gained the early advantage when his Bucks opened up a 2-0 lead with back-to-back victories at home.

    However, Milwaukee could not build on their early advantage and lost the next four on the spin, finishing with Saturday's 100-94 reverse in Toronto that sent the Raptors through to their first NBA Finals.

    While Toronto will be breaking new ground as a franchise, star man Leonard has won the title before with the San Antonio Spurs.

    "You can tell [his experience] from the way he was playing - not just in this series but the previous series [against the Philadelphia 76ers], as well," Antetokounmpo told a news conference.

    "The way he plays, he has so much patience. He knows what he's going to do, he has confidence in himself and he has the experience. He's been here before, he's been to the Finals multiple times.

    "He played well and he did everything he could to help his team win. He was a tough guy to guard for our team."

    Milwaukee appeared to suffer when their star player was stifled by the Raptors' defensive strategy, yet the MVP candidate had no frustrations with the way his team played.

    "I don't think anything has to change," Antetokounmpo said. "At the end of the day, we just have to trust one another.

    "The [Raptors'] game plan was to double-team me, make me not get a rhythm, but what I did was trusted my team-mates, which is what I've done all year.

    "If, for us, we lose by doing that, by trusting one another, by moving the ball, by doing what we've done all year, that's okay."

  • Giannis: This is just the start for the Bucks Giannis: This is just the start for the Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo and coach Mike Budenholzer are confident the Milwaukee Bucks will come back as a better team next season after their Eastern Conference Finals heartbreak.

    The Bucks, who boasted the best regular season record in the NBA, led the Toronto Raptors 2-0 before losing the next four games to crash out on Saturday with a 100-94 defeat.

    But Antetokounmpo suggested this could be "just the start" for Milwaukee, who won their solitary championship back in 1971.

    "When you're out 2-0, that obviously means nothing," he told a news conference. "You've got to learn how to close out games, especially after Game 3.

    "We've got to get better as a team and we've got to get better individually. I think this is just the start of a long journey.

    "We're going to get better and we're going to come back next year, believing in who we are and believing in what we've built this year. Hopefully we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward.

    "I've got to go back home and spend some time with my family. After that, I'm going to get in contact with the coaching staff and see what we can do as a team and how I can get better individually.

    "It's something I take pride in, how I can get better in the offseason.

    "Hopefully I can work on the right things, listen to my coaches on the things I can get better on, work my butt off and come back next year as a better basketball player and a better team-mate."

    Budenholzer, who oversaw vast improvements in both Antetokounmpo and the team, similarly believes the Bucks can kick on once again.

    "This hurts," he said. "But what they did in this playoffs tonight against a really good Toronto Raptors team - and to get to the Conference Finals - and in the regular season, a special season for us, we feel like we're just getting started.

    "This is the beginning of our journey. I couldn't be more proud of our team."

    Budenholzer added: "Giannis is going to get better. To think for us, we can be excited about his future at 24.

    "It's the easy narrative that this is part of Giannis' stepping, but I think the thing that makes Giannis special and unique is that, in our minds, he's going to get a lot better.

    "At 24, some guys are who they are. Some of the great ones were the same at 30. Giannis, we feel, has got a lot of room to grow."

  • Best player in the NBA? Leonard focused on Raptors' success Best player in the NBA? Leonard focused on Raptors' success

    Kawhi Leonard is unfazed about whether he is the best player in the NBA as he focuses on trying to lead the Toronto Raptors to a championship.

    Leonard inspired the Raptors to a first NBA Finals appearance after they sealed a 4-2 series win over the Milwaukee Bucks with a 100-94 victory on Saturday.

    The former San Antonio Spurs star contributed 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in Game 6 as the Raptors moved into the decider against the Golden State Warriors.

    Raptors president Masai Ujiri labelled Leonard "the best player in the league" after the win, but the 27-year-old's focus is on his team.

    "I don't really judge my game like that. I'm more of a team aspect, see what my team is doing. I just want to win," Leonard told a news conference.

    "I don't care about being the best player. I want to be the best team. I've always said that.

    "Just before the season when we made the trade, Masai felt that way about me. He told me how he felt and why he made the trade. It's turning out well now.

    "We're in the Finals - and we're not done yet."

    Leonard was traded to the Raptors from the Spurs in July last year, having played just nine games during an injury-plagued final season in San Antonio.

    The 2014 NBA Finals MVP was thrilled by Toronto's run, while praising team-mate Kyle Lowry.

    "It's great. I worked so hard to get to this point with the season I had last year, just always betting on myself and knowing what I feel and what's right for me," Leonard said.

    "I ended up coming here with a great group of guys, a lot of talent. And I just strived with them every day. I just kind of bought into their system.

    "Kyle helped me a lot with my transition, on the court and off the court, asking him questions, him just pushing me on the floor as well and letting me know what to do in situations when he calls plays.

    "All that hard work just put together, now we're here and it's exciting."

    Game 1 of the NBA Finals is in Toronto on Thursday.

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