At least Vince hit the rim. Time to block out the internet and the world till 9pm on Thursday.
It’s an Achilles injury for Durant, with an MRI scheduled for Tuesday to determine the severity. Out since May 8 with a right calf injury, Durant returned in Game 5, with the Warriors’ season on the line. He looked sharp early, racking up 11 first-quarter points. In the second quarter, Durant collected a pass on the right wing. He sized up Serge Ibaka, his former Oklahoma City teammate. He crossed over, planted his right foot, and that was it. Replays showed Durant’s muscle rippling up his leg.
Durant fell to the floor. He motioned to the Warriors trainer. The crowd roared, ignorant perhaps of the severity of Durant’s injury, until several Raptors players motioned for them to stop. Durant limped to the locker room, his left arm around Andre Iguodala, his right around Rick Celebrini, Golden State’s Director of Sports Medicine and Performance, with Curry and Myers following closely behind.
“Something just told me to go back there,” Curry said.
“I’m just devastated for Kevin,” added Steve Kerr.
Said Klay Thompson, “Really, it sucks.”
So many questions, and as Myers addressed the media, he knew what was coming. Should Durant have even been playing? Myers called the decision to activate Durant “a collaborative effort.” He said Durant was medically cleared to play. “We felt good about the process,” Myers said. He said he didn’t think anyone was to blame for Durant’s injury but “if you have to, you can blame me.”
Jessy James paused for a second to think about how he felt after such a heartbreaking, one point, Toronto Raptors loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
“I feel like my long lost girlfriend broke up with me. It feels hard,” said the 27-year-old Torontonian.
“But I have so much love around me I can’t feel too sad about it.”
Since Sunday night, James had been camped out at Jurassic Park — the downtown Toronto outdoor public square with the big screen television that has become a fan focal point to watch playoff games.
He was able to get to the front of the crowd inside the Park, where he and thousands of other jubilant fans had crammed into the square, hoping a Raptors victory would make them part of Canadian sports history.
There are two more chances to close it out, but one does not simply throw away a golden opportunity to close out the two-time reigning champs. An entire nation was ready to celebrate its first major championship in nearly three decades, and all the Raptors needed to do was hold on for three minutes against a wounded foe.
The Golden State Warriors were down for the count. Kawhi Leonard threw haymaker after haymaker to finally give the Raptors the breakthrough they needed. Leonard delivered a personal 14-0 run — including an acrobatic assist to Norman Powell on a streaking dunk coupled with 12 points by his own hand — to give the Raptors a six-point advantage with three minutes left. The roof was ready to blow at Scotiabank Arena, 85-year-old Bill Russell was ready with the Finals MVP trophy, and the ropes were about to be unfurled for the first time north of the border.
That’s when Nick Nurse called a regrettable timeout that killed all the momentum. It was a use-it-or-lose-it situation, and Nurse explained postgame that he wanted to give his team a breather. But instead it was the Warriors who got the boost, as they roared back to life with three straight triples to take the lead. As they have done so many times over this dynasty, the Splash Brothers gave the Warriors new life when they were otherwise down on the mat. They played with the heart of a champion.
On the other hand, the Raptors just lost their mojo. Leonard jacked up two tough looks — an awkward turnaround jumper that was mostly a heat check, followed by pull-up three over Klay Thompson that was supposed to be a dagger — but those were understandable decisions given the run he was on. If anything, it was curious as to why the Raptors chose to call timeout to ice their own player, because Golden State made a concerted effort to double and force Leonard to pass after the timeout, which forced his teammates to make clutch plays.
Perhaps that person was Durant. Durant’s a competitor, and probably didn’t want to sit on the sideline during an elimination game in the NBA Finals. And Durant has been known to listen to the whispers. This is the guy who tried to win Twitter fights via burner account. His reputation is important enough to him that he needed to defend it, even to random anonymous internet people, even if he had to do it himself. If anybody was questioning Durant’s toughness, or saying the team needed him to return, he heard it.
And when Durant hears people talking about him, he acts. After all, just three years ago, he made the bold decision to play for the Warriors in response to criticism that he hadn’t yet won any NBA championships. In his first two years, the Warriors won two NBA championships and Durant was named Finals MVP twice. The response was … not what Durant expected when he signed with the Warriors. Instead of being praised for finally getting over the hump and becoming a champion, he was criticized as a front-runner for joining a team that didn’t need him. That’s why Durant was widely expected to leave the Warriors in free agency this summer.
There’s a chance, and maybe a good one, that this is all just playing out the string. That the Warriors’ winning Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Monday, while thrilling and shocking and an emotional car wreck, might ultimately not matter all that much.
Whatever you think about the circumstances surrounding his return and his subsequent injury, and whatever we don’t know about what contributed to both, it’s safe to say that Kevin Durant won’t suit up again this series. Kevon Looney might, but he could barely lift his right arm on Monday night and had to leave the game midway through the third quarter after reaggravating the fracture that seemed set to knock him out of the Finals back in Game 2. Golden State is down to four guys whom Steve Kerr can really rely on for major minutes, and one of them, Andre Iguodala, is 13-for-36 from the field and 5-for-20 from 3-point range in the Finals. The Warriors are running out of players and running on fumes; Toronto, on the other hand, has a full complement of dudes.
In this case, the Raptors found themselves with all the momentum and closing in on a championship. After it, things fell apart.
“At that time I felt that he probably wanted to get us some rest,” Leonard said. “You never know. I mean, if we would have won the game, we wouldn’t be talking about it.”
The Raptors did not win the game — and in particularly ugly fashion.
Toronto missed five of its final six shots in the last three minutes — including three 3-pointers — and committed one costly turnover that led to Curry’s game-tying 3 with 1:22 remaining. Golden State, meanwhile, got the shots it needed to take the lead, and then a season-saving block by Draymond Green on Kyle Lowry’s potential championship-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“It felt great out of my hand,” Lowry said. “He got a piece of it. That’s what great defenders do. He got a piece of it and we’ll continue to look at it and see how we can be better for the next game.”
Leonard, who was double-teamed on the play, explained his decision not to take the final shot.
“Well, I mean two guys came up on me, I don’t know if I could have got a shot off,” he said. “It’s hard. If you got two guys on top of you, you have to try to find the right play. We ended up getting a shot in the corner, but it just didn’t go off quick enough.”
With a potentially historic Game 5 on Monday night, the Toronto Raptors decided that not just any national anthem singer would suffice. As it turned out, it wasn’t any one singer at all, but rather the thousands in attendance at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, who were enlisted to belt out “O Canada.”
The Raptors, who are seeking the franchise’s first NBA title, entered Monday’s game with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to eliminate Golden State at home. And ahead of the game, “The Star Spangled Banner” was performed by Monica.
When it came time for the host nation’s anthem, the Raptors’ regular vocalist, Doug Tranquada, delivered the first verse before pointing the microphone toward the crowd of about 20,000.
That resulted in a stirring scene, one that seemed to convey that all of Canada — including, of course, Raptors superfan and hip-hop superstar Drake — was behind the Raptors, who ultimately lost Game 5.
Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points for the Raptors but couldn’t get the final shot, which went to Kyle Lowry and was blocked by Draymond Green.
The Warriors were minutes away from their title reign ending, having lost Durant and a 14-point lead during an emotionally exhausting game. They had controlled Leonard for three quarters, but he scored 10 straight Toronto points in the fourth and the Raptors were close to their first championship and a celebration that would have stretched coast to coast in Canada.
But even after everything the Warriors had lost, they still had two of the best perimeter shooters in the world on the floor. Thompson hit a 3, and Curry followed with one to tie it at 103. Golden State got it back to Thompson and the Raptors lost sight of him just long enough for the tiebreaking shot with 57 seconds to go.
Toronto cut it to one when Kyle Lowry was credited with a basket and the Raptors got a final chance when DeMarcus Cousins was called for an illegal screen. Leonard had the ball but the Warriors forced him to pass and it ended up in the corner to Lowry, who was way off as the buzzer sounded.
Cousins had 14 points for the Warriors and Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Golden State is the only team to lose a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, when Cleveland came back to win in 2016.
Warriors could be in for a wicked injury hangover
How the Warriors regrouped in the wake of Kevin Durants 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.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand in this world, and if you have to, you can blame me,” Myers said. Durant had been sidelined since straining his right calf May 8 in Golden State’s second-round series with the Houston Rockets.
Said Warriors Coach Steve Kerr: “I just told the team I don’t know what to say, because on the one hand I’m so proud of them, just the amazing heart and grit that they showed, and on the other hand I’m just devastated for Kevin. So it’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now — an incredible win and a horrible loss at the same time.”
Kawhi Leonard scored 10 of his 26 points in a stunning fourth-quarter flurry that erased the last of Golden State’s 14-point lead and appeared to put the Raptors on the verge of the title. But late 3-pointers from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, combined with a crucial defensive stop on Toronto’s final possession — when Draymond Green blocked Kyle Lowry’s corner 3-point attempt — enabled Golden State to escape with an improbable victory.
Thanks to an ill-advised shot and a tip-in going the other way, the Warriors went to the break with a six-point lead. Still, it was Curry’s shot that lingered. Without Durant on the floor, how could the Raptors’ defence, which has looked so good for so much of the playoffs, fail in such a simplistic way?
“Me and Steph just got clean looks, and you don’t want to give us too many of those, because they’ll go in most of the time,” Klay Thompson said after the Warriors’ 106-105 Game 5 win.
“I think the fact that Steph and Klay were able to get off 14 and 13 3s is too many,” Lowry said. “They got off way too many 3s. For guys like them … you give them that many 3s, they’re going to make some.”
Thompson and Curry made 12 of those 3-pointers, with the Raptors combining to make just eight. The Warriors have been doing this thing for a while, figuring out a way to spring arguably the two greatest shooters in the world when there has not always been a ton of spacing around the court. For most of the series, the Raptors had at least been physical with the two sharpshooters, forcing them into tough shots, except for the odd miscue or a lost assignment after a surrendered offensive rebound.
In Toronto and its suburbs, where about half the population consists of people of color, and many are immigrants, it is not just about the basketball. The ethnically and nationally diverse Raptors reflect Canada’s largest city in the 21st century.
“You only see white people playing hockey,” said Andrew Nguyen, 19, whose parents came to Toronto from Vietnam. “But basketball is more like what the nation is like.”
Every week, receive a handpicked selection of news and opinion plus exclusive commentary from New York Times journalists.
Few people outside Canada may realize it, but basketball was invented by a Canadian, James Naismith of Almonte, Ontario, although he was working at a Y.M.C.A. training school in Springfield, Mass., at the time. The N.B.A., however, did not arrive in Canada until the 1995-96 season with two teams: the Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies, in British Columbia.
At first, the Raptors struggled on the court and as a business. It didn’t help that they initially played in a cavernous domed stadium built for football and baseball. The Grizzlies did so badly that they ended up moving to Memphis, in 2001.
That’s all history now. With the rise of the Raptors this season, the team has attracted large numbers of new fans not just in Toronto but throughout Canada.
Tougas believes the Raptors run will have a huge influence on the game, much like the Blue Jays 1993 World Series did for the game of baseball in Canada back then.
“Even a few years ago when Bautista hit that home run, the enrolments in baseball went through the roof,” noted Tougas.
“The same thing is going to happen. We have 10 club teams already and we are growing. Interest around here, basketball has become more of a realistic goal. People want to play basketball and it can only make more kids want to play the game in the future just because of watching that Raptors team, what it has done and they are Canada’s team right now.”
Basketball got a big boost locally when Nipissing University welcomed its two basketball teams, but nothing will compare to the euphoria the Raptors run is creating.
Puddister, a former Nipissing Lakers basketball player, who is currently a guard with the Sudbury Five of the National Basketball League of Canada, believes the Raptors run will create a bigger connection to basketball.
“I really don’t think like that when I’m playing,” he said. “It’s just really just every possession, just trying to win.”
That’s how they have played, almost all the time. When they were in Game 7 against Philadelphia, season on the line, it wasn’t just Kawhi: Serge Ibaka played 29 fearless minutes, roiling the offensive glass, and the defence locked in even as almost everybody’s shots weren’t falling. Remember The Shot? Of course you do. That was a moment, then another, then another, until Kawhi’s series-winning shot — the shot that he had to dribble over half the floor to find, and that Embiid misjudged and had to double-half-jump to contest — bounced four times and went in.
Stay in the moment. Coach Nick Nurse talked about how tough Toronto played in Game 1 in Milwaukee, even though they lost. He said, “We got on the plane the next day and had to play less than 48 hours after that. I thought we came out and played unbelievably tough. The ball didn’t bounce our way that night. We didn’t get any breaks. But I thought we outplayed them for the course of the game. And then when we went down two to them, our guys were like: We’re OK.”
“I told him I can live with him putting our season in his hands,” DeRozan would say later, “because without him, we wouldn’t be here.”
DeRozan’s sentiment came to mind Monday night as the Raptors and their national legion of loyalists were poised to celebrate Canada’s first big-three sports championship since the Blue Jays won their second of back-to-back World Series in 1993. Game 5 of the NBA Finals was wild; its swings of emotion were intense; its sad cameo from Kevin Durant, who left with what the team described as an Achilles injury, will be lamented for years.
And with time winding down, it seemed somehow fitting that the ball came to Lowry in the corner, the Raptors down one, a chance to win it at the buzzer in the hands of the longest serving Raptor.
“It felt great out of my hand,” Lowry would say later.
Alas, the shot that could have closed out the two-time defending champion Warriors was blocked on a dogged closeout by Golden State defensive specialist Draymond Green — Lowry’s chance at getting a championship ring on his finger interrupted, at least temporarily, by fingertips. The Warriors, 106-105 winners, improved to 6-1 while facing elimination under Steve Kerr. The Raptors repaired to their team charter for a flight to the Bay Area for Thursday’s Game 6.
When the Raptors dropped Game 2 of the Finals at home, Nurse told his team in the locker-room: “All we got to do is go get one (at Oakland).”
“Kawhi said ‘Expletive that, let’s go get them both,’” Nurse said.
They just need one win now at Oracle for the title. The series would return to Toronto for a Game 7 if needed.
The Raptors were cheered on by a star-studded crowd that included hockey star Wayne Gretzky, French soccer star Thierry Henry, former Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, Sir Richard Branson, and actor Eugene Levy.
Drake, dressed in a plain black T-shirt, sang along with the Scotiabank Arena crowd, his head swaying, eyes squeezed shut, in a spirited rendition of “O Canada,” kick-started by opera singer Doug Tranquada. American singer Monica, who sang the 1998 hit “The Boy is Mine” with Brandy, performed the U.S. anthem.
The connection between the Raptors and Drake is one which is incredibly public and for good reason. Together, the two have done some positive things in the community and also drawn plenty of additional attention to the franchise. Raptors owner Masai Ujiri had nothing but praise for the partnership after the naming rights deal for the practice facility was revealed, per Complex.
“Drake and OVO are an important part of our city’s landscape, our team’s identity, and our plans to bring a championship to Toronto,” said Raptors President Masai Ujiri. “With each step of our partnership over the last five and a half years, we have worked together to build a winning basketball program in Toronto and deliver for our fans and our community. This new naming rights deal for our training facility is a perfect example of the strength of this partnership and the innovative opportunities it can generate.”
It doesn’t appear the partnership’s growth will slow down in the near future, and Drake will continue throwing his full support behind the franchise. And as we now know, he has a connection with the Raptors which goes beyond just having courtside seats.
“We didn’t take a timeout there on that last play, right, but we let them play and Kawhi had it and they doubled him, and he moved it to Fred (VanVleet), and moved it to Kyle, and we just didn’t quite have enough space there,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought it looked like it was going to be a really good shot, an open corner three, but I didn’t see who got out there and got a piece of it. But again, I was confident we would come down and play and make the right decisions and get a good shot. I have a lot of faith in those guys.”
Curry finished with 31 points to lead Golden State, and Thompson had 26.
Lowry was brilliant in his Lowry-esque way and Kawhi Leonard shrugged off a so-so offensive night with a big fourth quarter as the Raptors led by six with less than three minutes left before they couldn’t close the deal.
“I thought we’d given ourselves enough time to be close,” said Samantha Pratt, stunned but not discouraged by the long lines snaking around Scotiabank Arena and halfway to the Rogers Centre. She and her 4-year-old son arrived from North York at about 4 p.m. when a security guard told her to go and queue all the way at the back. She said they watched Game 4 at home last Friday and thought today was time to join the party in the park.
“My son plays basketball and wants to be like these guys when he grows up,” she said, explaining why it’s important to be there, despite the soggy weather and long lines.
The rain that pounded the city all day let up about half an hour before the game and the anticipation inside Jurassic Park was palpable. Golden State’s fierce start unsettled the crowd a bit.
Monster objected almost immediately after Raptors owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment attempted to register the new logo.
“(Monster) has sold billions of dollars worth of goods under (its) mark,” say the company’s documents filed in June 2015. Since 2002, the company has used the three gashes on everything from rock concerts to clothes, as well as on the energy drink, it says.
“(Monster) will be damaged by registration of the (Raptors) in that the mark will dilute the distinctive qualities of (Monster’s) mark … and will lessen the ability of (Monster’s) mark to distinguish (Monster’s) goods.”
Maple Leaf filings point out that the Raptors have used a logo featuring three claw marks and a basketball since 1994.
The current logo is a development of the original one and is “the same or substantially the same,” Maple Leaf argues.
“(Monster) will not suffer added damage from the continued existence of the challenged applications.”
“He was pretty rattled early, and that’s part of what you do to double-team guys, is to try to rattle them in general,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam after his Game 4 gem. “So for him to hang in there and keep finding some moments to play was good. I think he made a bunch of free throws tonight, too, didn’t he? Seven-for-eight from the line.”
Siakam’s play has improved at every level this season. He’s a better shooter than he’s ever been simply because he’s worked tirelessly on it. He’s a better ball-handler than he’s been in the past, and his decision-making with the ball has been exemplary all season. That he has continued unabated on the game’s biggest stage and in the most intense moments is a testament to Siakam’s personality as much as it is to his physical abilities.
“I’m not looking at (the Warriors and how they play him). I’m looking at myself and just finding ways to get better,” he said.
“Obviously I’ve never been at this level, but I’m learning every day and just going through the playoffs and all the ups and downs and it’s making me a better player.
“I think I’ve always thought that I had the ability to be at this level. Maybe like not a lot of draft boards or whatever had that, but I always felt like I had the capacity to be here and I’ve always believed and worked to give it my all.
Is it possible Kawhi Leonard actually uttered the words “expletive that”? Yes, you cannot rule out some kind of language glitch or toggled childproof setting in his CPU. It seems more likely that Kawhi said “fuck that” and NBA reporters are stuck with stuffy-ass social media rules. If true, this is a big step up for Kawhi. Last year he laughed, this year he said “fuck.” Truly he is blossoming before our very eyes.
Some fans cheered as Kevin Durant exited with an injury, and the players weren't having it
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 11, 2019
We should applaud Kawhi’s growth as a playmaker. Kawhi has largely avoided his mano-a-mano tendencies this postseason, working to play within Nick Nurse’s flowing offense, not as an entity outside of it. The same friction loomed over Kevin Durant and the Warriors in 2016-17, and to some, that friction remains in place today. Durant has largely overcome the initial integration issues, as has Leonard, to startling success. Yet the playmaking evolution pales in comparison to Leonard’s now-elite scoring chops.
Kawhi is on a downright historic tear this postseason. He is one of just three players in league history to average 30 points and nine rebounds per game in the postseason, joining LeBron and Hakeem Olajuwon. Leonard enters Friday night with 52 made threes; Olajuwon made just two in his 1995 run. Leonard’s efficiency in the Finals has truly been robotic, with a 40% rate from three, 45.2% from the field and 93.8% from the line. He’s been Curry-esque through four games.
Leonard frankly seems undeterred by the defenders in his path. Kevon Looney was nearly knocked out of the series after a collision with Leonard; even Draymond Green staggered back after connecting with Leonard in Game 3. No switch can completely shut down Leonard, and the Durant injury continues to loom large on the defensive end. Leonard decimated Milwaukee in the pick-and-roll in final four games of the conference finals, yet Nurse hasn’t hunted Golden State’s guards for much of the series. Toronto attacked Cousins at will in Oakland. Curry hasn’t necessarily been given the Cavs treatment. Perhaps a steady pick-and-roll diet simplifies Golden State’s assignments. Maybe Nurse hopes to keep his machine humming as an equal opportunity attack. Regardless, it’s hard to argue with the results.
It’s unfair to bury Golden State as we enter Game 5. Rudy Tomjanovich’s famous phrase has rung true throughout league history, and a 3–1 hole is far from foreign to Curry, Klay and the rest of the Warriors’ core. Yet Monday’s matchup seems to be hurtling toward a coronation. The end of dynasties is often quicker than we think, whether it be LeBron losing to Leonard in 2014 or the Lakers’ limping to the finish against the Pistons in 2004. Magic Johnson won just one game in his last Finals. Curry may very well have another Finals opportunity, though the parallels are in place. Even discarding historical precedent, Leonard and the Raptors look like a team on a mission, stalking through the tunnel after Game 4 without an ounce of satisfaction. Kawhi emerged as a household name when he hoisted the Finals MVP trophy in 2014. A win on Monday night will solidify his standing among the greatest players of his era.