The Golden State Warriors will live to see another day.
Despite a deflating second-quarter injury to Kevin Durant, who was helped off the floor after re-injuring his calf, the Warriors overcame a late deficit to force a Game 6 at Oracle Arena with a 106-105 win over the Raptors on Monday. The Warriors will now have to protect home court if they plan on overcoming a 3-1 deficit and three-peat as NBA champions.
How did Golden State do it? Durant was red-hot early, scoring 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown in the first quarter alone. But he went down, then so did Kevon Looney, who played through a fractured collarbone. Golden State fell behind by six points with three minutes left and looked to be doomed.
Somehow, the defending champs survived and sent this to Game 6. Here’s how they did it.
Kevin Durant’s return gave them temporary life
After missing more than a month of basketball with an injury deemed a strained calf, Kevin Durant returned for Game 5, giving the Warriors the offensive boost they’ve needed all along.
Durant ran up 11 points in the first quarter alone, on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from deep at that. He was everything Golden State needed if it was going to bounce back against a deep, talented Raptors team.
But early into the second quarter, the worst-case scenario reared its head. Durant hurt his leg on a crossover. He had to be helped off the floor, cursing his way to the locker room. Warriors GM Bob Myers held back tears while calling Durant’s status an Achilles injury. It is uncertain how this will affect his playing future, but the outlook is not favorable.
The Warriors played through this moment. Klay Thompson said postgame that the Warriors got this win for Kevin Durant. Steve Kerr said he had no words that could explain how he feels. Stephen Curry echoed similar sentiments.
This was a turning point, for better or worse.
An inexplicable timeout gave them a chance
Kawhi Leonard had it going in the fourth quarter. He had just gone on his own personal 10-point scoring streak, and the Warriors didn’t look like a team with an answer. This is the reason you risk it all, trading for a star who can leave in free agency. That star can heat up, and it’s almost impossible to cool him off.
“We had two free ones that you lose after the three-minute mark,” Nurse explained postgame. “We just came across and decided to give our guys a time to rest. … We just thought we could use the extra energy push.”
What happened instead, though, was the Raptors let the Warriors off the hook. Golden State looked gassed, kept at bay with the momentum of an entire country against them. They didn’t have the energy to fight Toronto off. Not until that timeout.
The Raptors never scored another field goal. Aside from a Kyle Lowry layup that DeMarcus Cousins goaltended, Toronto never put more points on the board. And that momentum-sapping timeout is a reason why.
The Splash Brothers gave them one more push
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.
The double on Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi vs. Klay, with a championship on the line. That was the setup for the final play of regulation with the shot clock turned off and Raptors down just one. But after Leonard took Thompson off the dribble, Andre Iguodala came with the help.