Everything seemed to be leading up to the Raptors capturing their first NBA Championship in Toronto in game 5 Monday night, but Golden State had other plans. Despite Kevin Durant rupturing his Achilles in the first half, the Warriors showed real resolve by pulling out the win with a depleted roster in a hostile environment after seeing their best player go down with a career-altering injury. Game 5 felt eerie and icky and — despite a great actual game — was a bad night for basketball and the NBA. A dark cloud now hangs over this series, but there is still basketball to be played and the Toronto Raptors have another chance to win a title on Thursday night in the final game ever at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Let’s look into the most interesting storylines ahead of game 6.
Bigger than basketball
Kevin Durant returned to the Warriors lineup in game 5 after more than a month off due to an injured calf and, after playing 12 of the first 14 minutes, ruptured his Achilles. Durant was obviously not 100 percent or even close to it upon his return. He spotted up for most of his opening minutes and ruptured his Achilles after trying to make a play for himself for one of the first times all game, taking Serge Ibaka off the dribble.
A closer look at Kevin Durant's right leg injury: pic.twitter.com/XEHPIn9wnW
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2019
One of the best players in the world — and one of the best all time — will spend the next 12 (or more) months of his prime unable to play the game he loves because collectively he and the Warriors’ staff agreed to come back too soon. He undoubtedly heard the whispers about being “soft” and not being a team player and he wanted to help the Warriors make history instead of worrying about his own health instead. The world of sports can be an unforgiving place for athletes because, as DeMarcus Cousins said after the game:
“We’re only idolized as superstar athletes, not human beings. It’s always about what we can do between those lines. That’s it. That’s all that ever matters. And then once we lash out and do human-type things, then we’re considered bad guys.”
Durant went from one of the sport’s biggest villains to a sacrificial lamb reminding fans that athletes are human beings and that you should never cheer for an injury, no matter who it is going down. I hope fans like myself take this as a lesson and learn that basketball is just a game we watch for our entertainment, but much more is on the line for the athletes. The mob mentality that surrounds team sports is toxic and old fashioned, and the athletes playing for our entertainment are human beings with emotions; ones who put their bodies and finances on the line in no small part due to the pressures we put on them.
Furthermore, let this be a lesson for sports organizations across the world who don’t do enough to protect their players when the players — especially the superstars like Durant — are the reason successful franchises and sports leagues are possible.
This is a wonderful take by Jalen Rose on the Kevin Durant injury/situation. pic.twitter.com/sOvNz3pSfQ
— Kory Waldron (@KWalHoops) June 11, 2019
Missing: Spicy P
Siakam was just 6-15 with 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists in game 5. He also had two turnovers and was the only Raptors’ starter with a negative +/-. Nurse still played him for 33:54 minutes, while Ibaka logged just 16:58 in one of his best all-around efforts all year.
— ESPN (@espn) June 12, 2019
Siakam simply has to be better if he wants to stay on the floor and give the Raptors a good chance of winning Thursday night. He is playing great defense but is unable to hit open corner-threes (0-4 last game) and his finishing around the rim has been hit and miss throughout the series. Since exploding for 32 points in game 1, Draymond Green has effectively shut Siakam down, making him work hard to earn every basket. Siakam will need to go at Green with the same confidence he did in game 1 or defer to other players. He can’t continue being indecisive on offense: It’s killing the Raptors.
The splashiest of brothers
Klay Thompson is 20-of-35 from deep in this series. Let that sink in.
While Steph Curry necessitates more attention and defensive game planning, Thompson is the one who doesn’t seem to miss if he is given any room to shoot. He hit two of the biggest three’s in crunch-time of game 5 including the one that gave Golden State a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
With Durant out for the series and Looney questionable for game 6, the Warriors are severely limited. DeMarcus Cousins can buy you a bucket every now and then, but the only way the Warriors can complete the comeback and win this series is if Curry and Thompson go super saiyan from deep like they did in game 5 when the Warriors outscored Toronto by 36 points from three-point range. The splash brothers led the Warriors to one of the most impressive road wins in NBA Finals history in game 5. Can they do it twice more?
Kyle Lowry is a difference maker
Lowry has emerged as the clear second option on offense against the Warriors due to his ability to take their slow centers off the dribble. Despite shooting just 1-6 from three in game 5, Lowry had one of his best offensive showcases in terms of midrange shooting and playmaking. Look at this sweet dish to Gasol:
The Warriors find themselves in a tough situation defensively: They can’t play Green at the 5 due to the lack of shooting around him, Looney is questionable after re-injuring his chest in game 5, and Cousins is slow-footed after recently returning from injury. Lowry, more than any Toronto player in game 5, exploited Golden State’s centers — especially Cousins— with blow-bys and step-back mid-range jumpers.
The Raptors got to do better here, Bell does a job flashing to the top of the charge circle on Cook's baseline drive which drew three defenders. Ibaka has to see that he needs to peel off to take Bell. This is the only Bell highlight. pic.twitter.com/z1w9ggoTW8
— Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) June 11, 2019
The Warriors need to play Cousins big minutes because he offers more playmaking, shot making, and rebounding than any other center on the Warriors roster. But defensively he is a big liability, and the Raptors guards, especially Lowry, need to take advantage in game 6.
Tipoff: 9:10 EST | TV: TSN/ABC | Radio: Sportsnet 590 The Fan / 680 News
Warriors are favoured by 2.5 points. O/U: 211.5
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Patrick McCaw, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher, Eric Moreland
Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles) is out. Kevon Looney (chest) is questionable.
PG: Steph Curry, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Draymond Green, Jonas Jerebko
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, Andrew Bogut