Three takeaways from the Golden State Warriors’ 106-105 road win against the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals to salvage a 3-2 series deficit.
Warriors could be in for a wicked injury hangover
How the Warriors regrouped in the wake of Kevin Durant’s devastating Achilles injury is beyond me. That saps most mortals’ strength, but Golden State is everlasting. They still had the Splash Brothers, whose three straight 3-pointers in the final 2:32 turned a six-point deficit into a three-point lead, and they still had Draymond Green, whose fingertips altered Kyle Lowry’s attempted game-winner.
It was a remarkable response from the surviving members of their death lineup.
“A lot of teams would have folded, but when you have the firepower we do, you’re never out of it,” Klay Thompson told NBA TV. “We’ve seen it all. We’ve seen a 3-1 lead. We’ve come back from down 3-1. We’ve been down 3-2. We’re lucky enough to have played 100-plus playoff games to see all of it, and nothing really fazes us at this point. We kind of go back to the Bay feeling like we’ve got a free shot.”
That’s the hope for Golden State, which also saw versatile center Kevon Looney re-aggravate his collar bone injury. (Man, they’re giving new meaning to the Warriors.) They will hope the Oracle Arena crowd carries them through Game 6 — that Thompson and Curry can plug into that atmosphere for one more emotional lift.
They were shellshocked after Game 5. As coach Steve Kerr said, “An incredible win and a horrible loss at the same time.” It may be worse once the high of surviving a win-or-go-home game on the road wears off, when the realization settles in that Durant may be lost for more than this season. The hangover will be mind-numbing.
“It's going to be a rough go in terms of just trying to recalibrate,” Curry said after the yin and yang of Game 5. “Until this point, it's been about our hope that he could play and our hope to stay alive in this series. ... The biggest advantage is being at Oracle Arena one more time, where our fans can really get behind us, and we're going to have to will ourselves for another 48 minutes to stay alive.”
We have seen how vulnerable the Warriors have looked without Durant, and the reality is that they needed all 12 of his pre-injury minutes on Monday night. He finished plus-6 in his short stint, and Golden State was minus-5 the rest of the way.
DeMarcus Cousins turned in another decent night, save for some extremely Boogie moments in the final minutes, but the Raptors will target his defense now more than ever. Looney might not be able to contribute meaningful minutes, and that puts an onus again on Andrew Bogut that may even be too much for the Australian to bear.
The Warriors are the walking wounded right now. They survived the final 33:46 of Game 5 without Durant, but once the adrenaline wears off, the pain of waiting all that time for a white knight, only to see him leave on crutches, could cripple them.
The heart of a champion
All that said, what we saw from Curry, Thompson and Green down the stretch of a game that seemed out of grasp, in an arena that threatened to deafen them, was one more reminder never to count them out. They may well be fueled by Durant’s injury, channeling the emotions instead into a “Win one for the Gipper” moment.
The Raptors owned a 93.6 percent chance of winning when Green committed his fifth foul with 2:59 remaining and his Warriors trailing 103-97, per inpredictable, and it felt higher than that. Kawhi Leonard was in the process of ripping their throats out, unleashing his own personal 10-0 run. The Warriors could have caved right there, heads held high, knowing they had given their all in the face of adversity.
Except, they had more to give. Thompson and Curry barely touched net on the trio of threes that accounted for Golden State’s final nine points — and the last of their 57 combined. Curry grabbed three rebounds in those wild final few minutes. The passing and screen-setting to get Thompson his last two looks was beautiful basketball. And it all came in the face of an entire country preparing for a party.
“We'll be suiting up in front of Oracle Arena with the amazing atmosphere and opportunity to play for [Durant], and to honor the sacrifice he made in terms of putting his body on the line tonight,” added Curry. “I would like to say I would guarantee the win, but who knows how it's going to end up. We're going to give everything we got. We're going to fight, we're going to compete, and I know if we get a chance to talk to him the next two days, that's what he would expect.”
The mistakes made by Cousins down the stretch — a controversial offensive interference, some olé defense on a Lowry layup that brought the Raptors within 106-105, and an illegal screen that gave Toronto 15 seconds to find a title-clinching shot attempt — could have sunk Golden State, but Green had the skill and wherewithal to close out and block a corner three that landed errantly as the clock expired.
@warriors Draymond Green deflects a last second game-winning attempt by @Raptors Kyle Lowry preserving Golden State's 106-105 win in Game 5 of #NBAFinals @Money23Green #nba #basketball @sfchronicle photo by @ScottStrazzante pic.twitter.com/zbkxtk2sTT— Scott Strazzante (@ScottStrazzante) June 11, 2019
These are plays made by men who have lived moments like these before, and it would be a mistake to believe they cannot string enough of them together again on their home floor on Thursday. Grant them another Game 7 at your own peril. With or without Durant, Curry and Thompson are fully prepared to set fire to your dreams.
Toronto may live to regret this
The championship was sitting there. The Warriors were heartbroken by Durant’s injury, and Leonard was tearing what was left out over a 110-second stretch that saw him alternate between dagger threes and pull-up jumpers on four straight possessions midway through the fourth quarter. What was once a 14-point Golden State edge was a Toronto lead for the first time since late in the opening frame. The Larry O’Brien trophy was on hand, as was Bill Russell to present the Finals MVP.
Curry missed his answer down six with 3:15 remaining, Fred VanVleet grabbed the rebound for the Raptors, Toronto could taste its first-ever NBA ring, and coach Nick Nurse called consecutive momentum-killing timeouts? Can you explain that one?
“Those two we took at three-minute mark?” Nurse told reporters when asked of a decision that looks disastrous in retrospect. “Yeah, well, we had two free ones that you lose under the three-minute mark, and we just came across and just decided to give those guys a rest. We had back-to-back ones there that we would have lost them under the three-minute mark and just thought we could use the extra energy.”
Extra energy with three minutes between them and the title, a crowd electrifying the building and an undermanned foe reeling? Nurse better hope those few minutes didn’t let a heavyweight off the mat to find footing just long enough to stagger back home and regroup. The Raptors better hope the hangover hits the Warriors harder.
Toronto was far from invincible in its first close-out attempt. The Raptors shot 25 percent on 32 3-point attempts and committed 13 turnovers leading to 20 Golden State points. If not for their 13 additional free throws, they may never have been in position to take down a Warriors team that rolled out Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Shaun Livingston to start the fourth quarter. It will only get harder at Oracle Arena.
There were many who considered Monday a must-win for the Raptors, believing Durant would only get more comfortable with each game. That is obviously not the case anymore, but the overarching theory remains: The Warriors are in friendly territory on Thursday, and the thought of entering a Game 7 against the Splash Brothers is terrifying, especially if you’re a franchise with a troubling playoff history.
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