These L2M reports are irritating | Raptors can’t waste historic Kawhi contribution | Fans made a mistake, now let’s move on
Kawhi Leonard currently leads all players this postseason in points, rebounds and steals.
The only player to do that in a postseason is Larry Bird in 1984. You know the rest. pic.twitter.com/WMs3m4o6Bp
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 9, 2019
Got Damn Kawhi is some type of zone that I’ve only seen from 4 people. Kyrie,bron,Kobe and me at La fitness!!
— Channing Frye (@channingfrye) June 11, 2019
This game was played at the slowest pace of the series, continuing a bit of a downward trend since Game 2. We’ve talked a lot this series about what pace means and the different factors that go into it. This game was a bit less nuanced in that regard — the Raptors took one second longer per-offensive possession, per InPredictable, but it wasn’t nearly as extreme an example of trying to grind it out in the half court as earlier in the series.
– That was partially because the Raptors wanted to run and push in transition to test a hobbled Warriors team. The Raptors only scored 13 points off of the 16 turnovers they created, but they won the fast-break battle (13-3) and scored 1.26 points per-possession following a live rebound.
– What follows from there is that the Raptors weren’t particularly effective in their half-court offence. They managed just 0.88 points per-half court possession, a 29th-percentile output per Cleaning the Glass. Were it not for Toronto’s 13 offensive rebounds (a 29.5-percent rate), things could have been really ugly on that end.
– The Raptors shot 7-of-22 for 17 points in the final seven seconds of the shot clock, regression in those scenarios we warned was coming.
– Kawhi Leonard’s 710 points this postseason are the fifth-most ever in a single run and he’ll likely be in third (725) after Thursday. Michael Jordan holds the record with 759.
There are a number of potential factors to consider with unusual data like this. One counterintuitive example: A team with dead-eye shooters, for instance, often won’t get opportunities for much hang time on the rim because their jumpers will swish through the net, registering a minuscule amount of time around the basket as a result. At the same time, though, players and teams who use considerable arc might be better positioned to get a beneficial bounce or roll, regardless of how soft or tight the rims are.2 And no team has put more air under its 3-pointers this postseason than Golden State.
In fact, while the Raptors’ shots have had the most hang time on the rim during home games, the Warriors have seen the league’s biggest home-road disparity in terms of how much longer the ball has teetered on the basket while playing in familiar confines. Golden State’s jumpers have stayed in the vicinity of the rim 0.02 seconds longer at Oracle Arena this postseason than on the road, by far the biggest gap of any playoff club. By contrast, Toronto’s shots actually hang near the rim slightly longer on the road than they do at home, so it’s hard to claim a soft-rim advantage at home for the Raptors.
The notion of shot arc is where Leonard’s series-ending jumper comes into play. While Kawhi generally doesn’t put much arc on his shots at all, he had to loft the one against Philly over the outstretched hand of 7-footer Joel Embiid to avoid having it blocked. Leonard’s shot reached a peak height of 18.2 feet before bouncing on the rim — a night-and-day difference from the league-average peak height of just 15.1 feet. The extra height almost certainly gave the shot a greater chance of going in from a physics standpoint.
And that shot is the first thing that comes to mind now whenever the Raptors benefit from seemingly lucky bounces. VanVleet, even with his expressed hate for the Toronto rims, has fully leaned into the idea that something magical — with the baskets or otherwise — is happening here.
“I think we’ve got a special thing going. Just kind of the aura, and the magic in the air, you can feel it a little bit,” VanVleet told me. “We have a lot to do with that, our fans have a lot to do with that, and things are just going the right way for us.”
“Well, … I don’t think the fans knew the significance of the injury,” Lowry said about the fan reaction. “They kind of just seen he went down. In this league we’re all brothers. At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and it’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.”
Lowry came to Toronto viewed as a malcontent. Masai Ujiri essentially told him as much when the pair had a frank conversation about Lowry’s place in the league in the point guard’s second year with the Raptors. Lowry was entering unrestricted free agency, and Ujiri said that unless Lowry could actually behave and pick his battles, he would become a journeyman who bounced around the league, unable to allow his talent to truly flourish. At the time, Lowry was known for picking fights with coaches — his tiff with Kevin McHale in Houston was part of the reason the Rockets traded Lowry to Toronto in 2012 — and generally being hot-headed. When he was 25, Lowry was charged for misdemeanour battery for throwing a ball at a referee and threatening her during a pickup game in Las Vegas. He pleaded no contest, with the agreement for dismissal necessitating he complete 100 hours of community service and enroll in impulse control counselling.
It is not as if Lowry has been perfect since then, and it is not as if feuding with your coach necessarily makes you a bad person, either. Lowry is hyper-competitive, and that can manifest itself in many different ways, some of them inappropriate. As time has gone on, though, Lowry has clearly reached a state of advanced maturity and composure.
You would not have guessed he would have been capable of it earlier in his career. Hell, many people probably would have guessed Lowry would be out of the league by now given the way his first few years played out. Regardless, in the 2019 Finals, Kyle Lowry is one of the adults in the room.
Like Siakam said, a lot going on. And that’s before the Raptors even consider losing such a crucial game by only a point. The only thing worse than the disappointment of the loss is going back and finding the innumerable little instances where it could’ve broken differently. The deficit was only a missed free throw, of which the Raptors had six. It’s only a foot on the line for one of Golden State’s 20 three-pointers. It’s Lowry getting that final shot off a split-second earlier. It’s a different bounce on the rim, a defender’s slip, a screen set a little less firm. It’s a billion little things.
It’s NBA Finals basketball, is what it is — played between two incredibly talented and tough teams. It’s intense, emotional, exhausting. But for the Raptors, who this morning head back west to do it all over again, it cannot be draining or defeating, like Green said. The challenge the Raptors will encounter Thursday in the final game played at Oracle Arena will be considerable and daunting. The Warriors are going to throw bombs. The Raptors will need to give everything. And they’ll need to overcome Monday if they’re to overcome what’s next.
“Just try to come out and match that emotion and that drive,” Leonard said, asked how his team needs to approach Game 6. “Come out and do the same thing — just be mentally focused, try to limit our mistakes, and be the aggressor. Just play hard for 48 minutes. And see what happens.”
Per the official report, the camera angles the league had available showed that Cousins “moves from point A to point B into Gasol, initiating contact that affects his driving shot attempt” and the decision of the officials to not make a call on the play was incorrect.
So, instead of Gasol going to the charity stripe to take two shots that could have slimmed the Warriors’ lead down to one, Cousins picked up the defensive rebound.
While Golden State didn’t end up scoring on the ensuing possession — or any of their opportunities following Klay Thompson’s go-ahead three-pointer to make it 106-103 with 57 seconds left — there’s no denying that those two foul shots could have completely changed the game’s conclusion.
The Raptors weren’t the only ones that had to deal with some controversial officiating down the stretch, though. Cousins was called for basket inference just over a minute before the aforementioned incorrect non-call on Gasol.
So, the bad calls definitely went both ways and, as a result, we’ll sit and wonder how things could have played out differently until Game 6 gets underway at Oracle Arena on Thursday night.
The NBA said the Toronto Raptors’ Marc Gasol should have been given two free throws with 49 seconds left of Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, a game that the Raptors lost to the Golden State Warriors by one point on Monday.
Gasol was fouled by the Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins on a drive, the NBA said in its Last Two Minute Report that was issued Tuesday. Gasol missed the shot and tumbled to the floor, but no foul was called.
Below is the league’s assessment of officiated events that occurred in the last two minutes of last night’s games that were at or within three points during any point in the last two-minutes of the fourth quarter (and overtime, where applicable). The plays assessed include all calls (whistles) and notable non-calls. Notable non-calls will generally be defined as material plays directly related to the outcome of a possession. Similar to our instant replay standards, there must be clear and conclusive video evidence in order to make a determination that a play was incorrectly officiated. Events that are indirectly related to the outcome of a possession (e.g., a non-call on contact away from the play) and/or plays that are only observable with the help of a stop-watch, zoom or other technical support, are noted in brackets along with the explanatory comments but are not deemed to be incorrectly officiated. The league may change its view after further review. If you have any questions, please contact the NBA here.
Five straight appearances in the NBA Finals, no telling what this Warriors group will look like when the 2019-20 season tips off, but the bond players have forged will be is long lasting.
In the stunning aftermath of Monday night’s win, the loss of Durant resonated throughout Golden State’s locker room.
As you might expect, players were trying to reconcile the highs of posting a win and the lows of losing such an elite talent in Durant.
“We’ve seen it,’’ veteran wing Andre Iguodala said. “We’ve gone through it before with teammates. (Andrew) Bogut went down a couple of years ago in Game 5. Steph has gone down before in the playoffs. Klay has gone down in the playoffs. Kevon (Looney).
“We always talk about how this team is with one another, but people still don’t really grasp what we’re talking about. When we say this is like a real brotherhood, a team, people have no clue what goes into that and how we feel about each other.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish with so much thrown at us that’s so negative kind of actually strengthens us a little bit.”
On one side, you can see how this proud Warriors team will rally around the duress of Durant, emboldened by the resiliency shown by injured players who try to extract everything they have.
On the other side, you can also see how the mounting adversity could known their spirits down.
Being at home in a series where the road team has won four in a row in front of a crowd that will see their beloved Warriors play their final game in Oakland before moving across the Bay to San Francisco, it may prove inspiration.
Once the emotion fades, the Warriors have to play basketball and the Raptors are better, which explains this feeling of inevitability.
Cousins dropped multiple F-bombs in his scrum when asked about the people who were calling Durant soft for missing the first four games of the Finals. Curry said that something like this is bigger than basketball or championships, and Klay Thompson had a strong message: We’re going to win it for KD.
“We’ll think of him every time we step on the hardwood,” said Thompson, who scored 26 points and hit the go-ahead three with just under a minute left. “It obviously inspires you to play harder knowing your best player can’t be out there. You think of him every time you dive for a loose ball or go for a rebound, because I know him and I know how bad he wants to be out there. That’s why he was out there.”
If they’re able to come back from a 3-1 series hole – something that only one team has ever done in the NBA Finals (the 2016 Cavaliers against Golden State) – that would undoubtedly be the biggest story. It wouldn’t just be a narrative, either. For the Warriors to pull off the near impossible, they’ll need this to bring them together. This has to be their rallying call.
“It’s going to be a rough go in terms of just trying to recalibrate,” Curry admitted. “Until this point it’s been about our hope that [Durant] could play and our hope to stay alive in this series.
“So I don’t know really if there’s going to be a speech in the locker room, if there’s going to need to be words at all. We understand the moment and I think we can rally.”
After failing to take advantage of Durant’s injury and their late-game lead on Monday, the Raptors will have two more chances to close this out and win their first ever championship, beginning on Thursday in Oakland for Game 6.
If they’re able to take care of business it will be because of the way they’ve kept their cool and blocked out potential distractions along the way.
From Leonard’s load management during the regular season to his impending free agency, from the Raptors’ awkward summer of business to their injuries and fluctuating rotation, they’re default setting is to pay it no mind.
The Warriors’ tend to place themselves in situations to make it harder, whether consciously or not. In recent history, Golden State’s sheer dominance in talent would negate those situations. But now, the Warriors’ do not have that added luxury, which means they simply cannot afford to be careless with the basketball.
If this sounds rhetorical and very much fundamental, its because it is. It’s an easy to fix t make and if Steve Kerr emphasizes the decision to make the safe, crisp passes when they’re called for, it could pay dividends for the defending champs in Game 6.
Despite having double-digit leads throughout the series, the Warriors always seem to find themselves clinging on in crunch time or squandering it late in the game.
Toronto has not been fazed and always has a counter punch to the scoring runs from Golden State. As a result, the Warriors’ can’t afford to give extra possessions away so easily.
It’s an easy and simple fix, but still, down 3-2 heading back to Oracle, it’s a fix that the defending champs need to make should they want to survive a tough Game 6 and force a potential Game 7.
When Kevin Durant hit the ground clutching his lower right leg during the second quarter Monday night, those watching NBA Finals Game 5 held their breath. It later was revealed to be an Achilles injury, although exact details remain unknown.
While Durant was being escorted off the Scotiabank Arena court and into the Warriors’ locker room, it appeared some Toronto Raptors fans began to cheer in celebration — an act DeMarcus Cousins called trashy. It was a bad reflection on a fan base that, until then, hadn’t been known for being negative at all.
However, one anonymous fan wanted to make sure the cheering didn’t leave a bad impression of Canada as a whole, and sent this floral display to the Warriors’ offices to apologize “on behalf of Canada.” The arrangement also had a ribbon that read “Canada is sorry KD” placed across it.
The Raptors are 50-54-1 against the spread (ATS), 54-50-1 to the over/under, 15-16 ATS after a loss, 13-8 ATS as an away underdog, 10-16 ATS with 2-3 days off, 9-17 to the over/under with 2-3 days off, 14-17 to the over/under after a loss and 12-9 to the over/under as an away underdog this season.
Cousins has another Finals moment
The “other” star player to return from injury this series, Cousins has been used sparingly except for a great Game 2 performance, and it looked like more of the same was in store Monday.
Durant started for Cousins, and when it came time to insert a second-unit center, the Warriors went with Andrew Bogut. It took Durant’s injury for coach Steve Kerr to look to Cousins, and in a tense second quarter, he delivered.
Cousins scored nine points on five shots while grabbing five rebounds. He also had an assist and a blocked shot.
“DeMarcus was fantastic tonight,” Kerr said. “He stayed ready. He didn’t get the first call for that second-quarter run. We went to Bogut and then with the injury we knew we needed his scoring and he stayed ready and played a brilliant game.
“So [I’m] very happy for him, and he’s been through an awful lot himself over the last year-plus with his own injuries. So this was a great night for him individually.”
This time, there will instead be questions about whether it made sense for Toronto, up six points and with the crowd going crazy, to call a timeout with 3:05 to go. Coach Nick Nurse justified his decision by noting he was about to lose the extra timeout under the three minute mark (as per NBA rules) and wanted to give his players a moment to rest. It makes some sense to a certain extent, and would have been completely forgotten about had the Raptors won. But they didn’t. Instead, the Warriors reset, Toronto’s defense fell apart, and Golden State exploded for a 9-0 run in response.
In that time, the Raptors went ice cold: Kawhi missed a jumper, Kyle Lowry missed a 3, Lowry threw a wild pass into the backcourt for a violation, Leonard missed again, and then Marc Gasol, driving hard to the basket, could not complete the layup. The last points Toronto managed to score in the game’s final three minutes came off a Lowry layup that was goal-tended by DeMarcus Cousins. The Warriors did their Warriors thing, and that was it. I suppose we could wonder now if maybe Draymond Green’s arms had been a little shorter, his fingers just a little stubbier, his leaping ability and reach just a tad diminished…
But there was no way the Raptors were going to win this one at the buzzer. The good mood surrounding Toronto’s first ever potential NBA title win had already dissipated. Now Game 6 looms on Thursday in Oakland. It will feature a pissed off Warriors team and an angry crowd. And we in Toronto may very well deserve what’s coming next.
From here, the need for the Raptors to turn the page from Game 5 is obvious. The Warriors may have added motivation, but they’ve lost the bodies that they needed to win in the first place. Durant is now out of the series for good. Kevon Looney may play again, but his chest injury hasn’t allowed him to play long stretches. The Warriors’ centres behind those two — Cousins, Andrew Bogut, Jordan Bell — have given back as much as they’ve provided in this series.
The Raptors just have to be better than mediocre, and eliminate the small mistakes that added up over the totality of Game 5. Fred VanVleet fouling Curry on two three-pointers was critical. Kyle Lowry’s turnover in the last two minutes was a backbreaker — part of 13 committed as a team. Shooting 25% from three won’t cut it. Even Kawhi, who nearly stole the game himself, started the game poorly and finished just 9-for-24 from the field.
There are players ready to be heroes, ready to make their own title moments. Serge Ibaka was great again, playing with aggression in the second half to get to 15 points. Marc Gasol was up from the opening tap, making 4-of-6 overall to score 17. Even Lowry, who is always fighting against his playoff narrative even when it no longer makes sense, shot 50% for 18 points to go with six assists and four rebounds.
In Game 5, Durant went off early, the Warriors self-motivated in the second quarter, Curry and Thompson made their critical shots late — and the Raptors lost by one point. The front page story hanging out there is admittedly great: a defending champion loses their superstar in heartbreaking fashion, then comes back from down 3-1 to win.
The Raptors need to understand, though, that they’re too good to be someone else’s plot device. Game 6 will be another chance to show their resilience, and my bet is we see it in droves.
These are not the 2014 Raptors, a gutsy but young group that got up 3-2 on the Brooklyn Nets, failed to close out on the road and then came home to lose on a last-second block by Paul Pierce of all people.
Those were the earliest days of playoff experience for the Raptors. They’re nothing remotely close to that 2015 Raptors team that took a playoff step back and got swept in four by the Washington Wizards and that same fly in the ointment, Paul Pierce.
No, this is a veteran cast with tons of playoff experience and beyond that they have the best player in this series in Kawhi Leonard.
This is the team that build a 3-1 lead on these same Warriors and now have two more chances to close them out, one here on their turf and then if need be back home.
This team has at the very least earned that kind of faith.
“We’ve done it all playoffs long,” Marc Gasol said of bouncing back from defeat. “We’re going to continue to battle. We’re going to continue to fight no matter the score. We’ve got to do a better job of communicating defensively at the end. Both guys (Curry and Thompson) came out pretty open on those (last) two plays.”
Even if you are convinced that the Warriors turned some kind of corner with their win on Monday in Toronto, it won’t be the same Warriors that take the court Thursday.
But the celebration wouldn’t happen, at least not on this night. And while much of that stems from the world’s two best jump-shooters stepping up when it counted most, it’s fair to question whether Raptors coach Nick Nurse helped aid the momentum shift over the final three minutes. Nurse, who had been brilliant all postseason (and again found success by springing a rarely used hybrid-zone defense1 on the Warriors), surprisingly called timeout in the midst of Toronto’s 12-2 run.
The choice was a curious one, particularly because the Warriors almost couldn’t call timeout, despite their fairly obvious need to stop the bleeding. Golden State had only one stoppage remaining at that stage, so Kerr likely felt that he couldn’t afford to use the team’s last breather that early, just in case he’d need one to draw up a play at the very end of the game.
Nurse later explained that when he called the timeout with 3:05 left, he wanted to get his own players some rest. But whatever the rationale, from that point to the end of the game, the Warriors outscored Toronto 9-2, with all 9 points coming off triples from Curry and Thompson.
With a little more buzzer-beating magic, Toronto could have secured a title on the game’s last play. But the Warriors blitzed Leonard with a second defender, Andre Iguodala, forcing Kawhi to relinquish the ball to Fred VanVleet, who then found Kyle Lowry in the corner. Lowry fired what looked like a dud that hit the side of the backboard, but a photo later indicated what really happened: Draymond Green just barely tipped the attempt, knocking it off course. Game 5 ended with the Warriors still breathing, 106-105, Golden State.
In a way, you knew that if the Warriors staved off elimination, especially in nail-biting fashion, Curry, Thompson and Green would all make plays to keep their hopes for a three-peat alive. That idea almost certainly holds true as the series, now 3-2 Toronto, heads back to Oakland for Game 6 as well.
But for all the craziness that took place in Game 5, make no mistake: Durant’s brief appearance — despite its enormous cost to himself, the Warriors and the NBA as a whole — was a season-saver, too.
What does Pascal Siakam have to do to find success in Game 6? What do the Raptors need to do to limit the Warriors from beyond the arc on Thursday night? Jack Armstrong joins Cory Woron to share his thoughts.
It’s not defending the fan base to say there were a lot of Raptors fans who reacted appropriately: as Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Ibaka tried to quiet the crowd, you could see hundreds of Raptors fans in the crowd doing the same. Once cued that this wasn’t something to be cheered, the reaction changed to respectful applause before Durant was all the way to the Raptors bench, and there was a brief “KD!” chant as he entered the tunnel. It changed fast.
But some took delight in the injury, in the building and at viewing parties outside the arena, and those who reacted with glee at an opponent’s injury should think about that. It’s understandable, sure. The emotions of the moment were electrified, high and skittering; Raptors fans are celebrated for their passion, for the depth of their feelings. They were cheering for their team.
It just happened to be at the expense of another human, and that’s the cold hard lack of empathy and humanity that tribes can create. Taken to its logical extreme, sports explain a lot of how modern politics works, at the moment. It’s like when fanbases cheer for athletes accused of sexual assault to be innocent, and damn the victim. Which also isn’t limited to sports, or to the United States.
Empathy and kindness can be harder than the rush, even the transgressive rush, of us versus them. The Raptors fanbase, and Canadians in general, can be said to be a positive force. It’s joyful, in general. But like every other fan base, it’s comprised of people.
Although the initial suit was created in 2015, the fight has languished for four years and a judge will have to decide whether a consumer would likely be confused.
“In one case you have a very popular logo from an NBA franchise that everybody understands is Toronto Raptors,” Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors, said in its response. “And on the other, you have a logo that everybody understands is Monster Energy.
“It appears on its face the logos are pretty different.”
Considering how popular Raptors apparel has become during the current playoff run, you can be sure Monster Energy is going to keep up its efforts to win this case.
Game 5 was a tale of two halves in Monday night’s contest. The Raptors allowed 62 points in the first half, but held them to 44 points in the second.
A large part of the Warriors’ offense was generated at the start of the game. Both Thompson and Curry got it going early, with the team shooting 88.8 percent from the field in the first five minutes of action. They had collectively made five looks from deep and finished the first frame with 34 points. The Raptors were unresponsive from the perimeter in the first half, but were able to get to the foul line, being aggressive in attacking the paint.
The Raptors held their own in the second quarter with both teams scoring 28 points apiece. To start the third quarter, the Dubs went on a run, extending their lead to double-digits. Toronto’s perimeter shooting came to life, with VanVleet hitting three times from downtown in the second half.
Kyle Lowry added his one and only make from deep in the fourth quarter, helping his team cut the deficit as part of a 13-3 run. Lowry shot 1-for-6 on the night from deep, including the aforementioned failed shot attempt to win the game. Leonard was tough to watch in the third quarter, only contributing one point. Defensively, he was still sound and was a beast on the glass, with six of his 12 rebounds coming from the offensive end.
It was Leonard’s 10-0 run that gave his team the lead with 3:28 left in the final frame. The Raptors outscored the Warriors 49-44 in the second half, and after a few made 3s from the Splash Brothers, were just a shot made away from winning a championship. So why couldn’t the Raptors secure the win?
The Raptors finished with an effective field goal percentage of 49.4 percent, their third-lowest mark of the series. They are 1-2 in the Finals and 4-7 in the postseason when they finish with an eFG% below 50 percent.
While Leonard is still chasing the all-time points mark, he sits alone in NBA history as the only player ever to record at least 700 points, 200 rebounds and 35 steals in a single postseason.
In Game 5, Leonard became third player in the last 35 years to have at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in a potential series-clinching game in the NBA Finals, joining Dwyane Wade in 2006 and LeBron James in 2016. Wade and James both won when they accomplished the feat.
The Raptors had a chance to win Game 5 with the game’s final possession down by one point. Many expected Leonard, who has made clutch shots throughout the postseason, but the Warriors made sure to shut him down. Instead, Kyle Lowry attempted a three-point shot for the win, but had it blocked by Draymond Green.
“Well, I mean, two guys came up on me, I don’t know if I could have got a shot off,” Leonard 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.”
Lowry dropped to 2-of-30 (6.7 per cent) on go-ahead field goal attempts in the final 20 seconds with Monday’s blocked shot. He has the worst field goal percentage in those situations since he entered the league in 2007-08. Brandon Jennings has the second-worst conversion rate – among players with at least 20 attempts – at 3-for-29 (10.3 per cent).
Leonard, meanwhile, has the best field goal percentage in those situations in that time (45.8 per cent, 11-of-24).
Some sports fans suck. The suck is not unique to a single team or region. Fan is short for fanatic. Fanatical people tend not to have a healthy approach to the import of a game. Fans celebrating with an opponent goes down with an injury is not really an aberration. It’s the predictably stupid and classless response.
Is it right? Of course not. But to pretend there’s anything unique about the Raptors fans who delighted in Durant’s misfortune is ridiculous. Anyone who thinks the fanbase they belong to doesn’t have more than its fair share of bad apples is to be willfully ignorant.
And, look, I get it. Feeling superior is a major part of being a sports fans. Pretending you’re different than the folks in the next town over, that you’re better, is part of the experience. But that’s basically the bystander version of rooting for laundry.
Yes, fanbases differ. There are different attitudes. Painting everyone with the same brush, though, is neither constructive or accurately reflective. Raptors fans aren’t any different than Insert Team X here.
Cheering while Durant was down is low. Giving him a standing ovation and chanting his name as he limped off the court was behavior all can support. What I’m positing here is that it’s complicated.
There is no quit in these Raptors, and they just keep playing possession after possession. Kawhi Leonard had a tough three quarters offensively but had a big outburst with 10 consecutive Raptors points in the fourth quarter. The deficit disappeared, and it was a 103-97 Raptors lead with 3:28 remaining.
Just 208 ticks of the game clock separated the Raptors from the first championship in the franchise’s 24-year history. It seemed so close, and the fans sensed the historic moment.
“In this day and age, up six with three minutes to go doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Nurse said. “You got to keep playing and getting good shots and keep guarding. We have been a really good close-game team this year — both ends of the floor. We really guarded in the second half. We held them to 22 each quarter (in the second half), and I felt good at that point. Just needed to make a couple more plays.”
The Splash Brothers gave them one more push
Without Durant, the Warriors reverted back to their old guard. That was Curry and Thompson lighting it up like we’re used to seeing.
Golden State trailed six with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter, immediately after Leonard ran off that 10-point surge. Thompson made a three, Curry hit a three, then Thompson hit another that all but sealed the deal.
In the end, Curry went off for 31 points, and Thompson hit 7 three-pointers. It was the same of a lifetime for the Splash Bros., who gave their team new life with their play on Monday night. And they’ll need to be even better if they’re going to protect home court in Game 6 without Durant.
Lowry, along with Serge Ibaka, checked on KD immediately and addressed the fans to stop whatever reaction they’re pulling off. That’s when the fans came to their senses and actually shifted to chanting “KD! KD! KD!” to applaud what he has done for his team.
Their first cheering act was a total opposite of the Jimmy Kimmel’s video where they asked Canadians to trash talk Golden State Warriors. Canadians are known to be polite, and tonight, Lowry showed that yes they are.
In the post-game interview, Lowry shared that they are all brothers in this league and he doesn’t want to see anyone go down like that – any aspiring basketball player should take note of.
Meanwhile, Golden State Warriors are motivated more than ever to do still finish this season strong and achieve a 3-peat for their brother, Kevin Durant.
Now, Toronto must regroup for Game 6 on Thursday at Golden State, but so far, that hasn’t been an issue for this team. The Raptors have won twice at Oracle in this series. They have shown a remarkable ability to stay poised after setbacks. This playoff run alone: The Raptors lost their first game in the opening round against the Orlando Magic at home but did not lose another the entire series. They almost lost Game 7 against Philadelphia at home in the second round, then lost the first two contests on the road against higher-seeded Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals. Toronto, again, won four straight.
Each time Toronto has been challenged, it has overcome.
“It’s not going to be easy, stay confident,” Leonard said, describing what he told teammates after Monday’s loss. “We know we can win, and that’s it.”
Toronto is relatively healthy, while Golden State must rely on less-talented players to make up for the holes left by the absence of Durant and potentially Looney again. Leonard had a poor shooting performance in Game 5: 9 of 24 from the field, while the Raptors shot only 25 percent from 3 as a team. Those statistics are likely to revert to the mean in the next game.
But this creates a special kind of pressure on the Raptors. Golden State is not the kind of team the Raptors want to leave the door open for, which is what Toronto did in Game 5. The Warriors, after all, came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2016 Western Conference finals. Even with the loss of Durant and Looney, they have two of the better shooters in league history, in addition to another bona fide All-Star in Draymond Green.
Toronto has two more chances. If, for some reason, the Raptors end up losing this series, that Lowry jumper may be replayed on loop. After all, they were right there.
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