How the Warriors Survived Game 5 of the N.B.A. Finals
- by NewYorkTimes
- June 11, 2019
TORONTO — A script-defying N.B.A. finals continued Monday night when the Golden State Warriors welcomed Kevin Durant back from a monthlong absence, watched in horror as he reinjured himself after a storybook start — and then still managed to keep this championship series going.
Durant lasted only 12 minutes in his comeback before suffering what later would be revealed as an Achilles’ injury, but the Warriors pulled themselves together after his emotional departure and dug out a 106-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors to fend off elimination in Game 5. The Golden State win narrowed Toronto’s series lead to three games to two and prevented the Raptors, in front of an expectant sellout crowd, from clinching the first championship in the franchise’s 24-year history.
Yet the Warriors, given the severity of Durant’s injury, could scarcely celebrate. A magnetic resonance imaging exam is scheduled for Tuesday, but fears of a full rupture had Bob Myers, Golden State’s president of basketball operations, fighting back tears as he updated Durant’s status at the postgame news conference.
“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 two late 3-pointers from Klay Thompson sandwiched around another from Stephen Curry erased Toronto’s 103-97 edge. Combined with a crucial defensive stop on Toronto’s final possession — when Draymond Green blocked Kyle Lowry’s corner 3-point attempt — Golden State’s backcourt duo enabled the visitors to escape with an improbable victory.
The Warriors survived by making 20 3-pointers as a team — the second most in an N.B.A. finals game, behind the 24 that the Cleveland Cavaliers sank against Golden State in Game 4 two years ago. Curry had a game-high 31 points, Thompson added 26, and Green (10 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists) flirted with a triple-double. In addition, DeMarcus Cousins — who didn’t play Monday until Durant went down — helped fill the void with a much-needed 14 points and six rebounds.
Yet there was grave concern about Durant’s injury from the moment it happened. He left the arena on crutches in the third quarter with his right foot in a walking boot — a stunning scene given that Durant is expected to hit the marketplace in three weeks as one of the most coveted free agents in league history.
“For him to put his health on the line to come back and compete at the highest level — he’s one of the best to ever do it, and we were trying to win this for him,” Thompson said.
After getting through a practice session on Sunday and pregame evaluations on Monday, Durant duly sank his first two 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the opening quarter. His shot looked pure. He was moving fluidly until, without warning, his night ended almost as quickly as it had started. Durant’s right leg buckled just over two minutes into the second quarter as he attacked Serge Ibaka on the dribble from beyond the 3-point line on the right wing.
Durant gave up his dribble when he felt the pain and quickly fell to the floor, clutching his lower right leg. He was helped to the locker room by Andre Iguodala and Curry, and Raptors such as Danny Green, Lowry and Ibaka were so shaken by the incident that they motioned to the Scotiabank Arena spectators — some of whom had begun to cheer when Durant went down — to be quiet.
The Warriors had won their first five games after Durant’s injury, including a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. But they lost three of the first four in this series with Toronto to fall into a deficit that has historically been fatal in the finals. In 34 previous best-of-seven finals, teams that took a three-games-to-one lead ended up winning the title 33 times — Golden State being the lone exception when it lost to the LeBron James-led Cavaliers in 2016.
The Warriors’ win on Monday sends the series back to Oakland, Calif., for Game 6 on Thursday night. It remains to be seen, though, how much Golden State will have left, both physically and emotionally, after the effort expended to extend the series in the wake of losing Durant again.
The Warriors also had to play much of the second half without the reserve center Kevon Looney, who returned to the lineup in Game 4 to try to play through chest and shoulder injuries but was clearly laboring in Game 5.
In anticipation of a championship, some of the Raptors’ most rabid fans had begun camping out for access to the watch-party space next to the arena — known as Jurassic Park — as early as Sunday morning, more than 24 hours before Monday’s tipoff. But the nationwide celebration that awaited the Raptors, had they won Game 5 and finished the series on home soil, was put on hold.
The New York Times reported last week that the Warriors entered the finals loosely targeting Game 5 as the earliest Durant could play. News reports that a comeback was possible in Game 3 or Game 4 appeared to spawn some frustration within team circles when it didn’t happen, as Kerr acknowledged at Monday morning’s shootaround. But Myers said it was “a collaborative decision” to allow Durant to return after consultations with “multiple doctors” and “multiple M.R.I.s.”
“We felt good about the process,” Myers said.
The manner in which Durant went down will undoubtedly raise questions about whether he was rushed back too soon in response to external pressure for him to play through his injury given the stakes on the game’s biggest stage.
In an Instagram post after the game, Durant wrote that he was “hurting deep in the soul right now” but insisted that “seeing my brothers get this win” had infused him with “new life.”
How the Warriors won Game 5, as reported by Benjamin Hoffman in New York.
A 9-0 run has Golden State back up, 106-103 with 56 seconds remaining.
Klay Thompson hit two 3-pointers and Stephen Curry hit one, and the Warriors managed to laugh off a very questionable call in which DeMarcus Cousins was called for offensive interference on a putback that did not appear on replays to be above the cylinder when he dunked it back in.
In the Warriors run, Kawhi Leonard missed a pair of shots and Kyle Lowry missed once, opening the door for Golden State to somehow survive what had been a truly epic explosion from Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard absolutely took over the game. After starting 0 of 4 from 3-point range, he hit a 3-pointer to give Toronto its first lead of the second half and ended up going on a personal 10-2 run against the Warriors, putting his team up, 103-97.
Leonard is up to 26 points and 12 rebounds.
The run included two huge 3-pointers from Leonard, and other than a nice hook shot from Draymond Green, the dominance has been almost entirely unanswered with Stephen Curry missing a pair of contested 3-pointers.
The Raptors took a timeout with 3:05 remaining and the finals seemingly in their hands if they can simply close out a Warriors team that is down two key players after having started the game at full health.
The Warriors were forced to take another timeout, with Steve Kerr furious on the sideline, after Kawhi Leonard appeared to get away with a travel on a pass to Norm Powell for a wide-open dunk. Regardless of Kerr’s anger, the dunk got the Raptors to 95-93 with 5:34 remaining, with this game seeming very winnable for Toronto.
Shortly before the Powell dunk, Draymond Green had gotten Golden State’s lead back to four points with a 3-pointer that got him to 8 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists for the game. He has not asserted himself much in terms of scoring, and he’s still carrying four fouls, but his hitting a shot could open up some space on ensuing possessions for his team’s other shooters.
Leonard, meanwhile, is still having a rough shooting night, going 5 of 18 from the field and 0 of 4 from 3-point range, but he has 16 points and 10 rebounds and has shown repeatedly that he can outmuscle Golden State’s small lineup under the basket. With Kevon Looney out for the remainder of the game after reinjuring his chest, that strength advantage is huge.
Stephen Curry and Draymond Green were on the bench to start the fourth — as was Kawhi Leonard — but Golden State, using a lineup with very little shooting, fought to a 6-6 stalemate in those minutes, with Quinn Cook hitting a 3-pointer on one possession and assisting on a Jordan Bell layup.
The stars came back in after a 2 minute 34 second rest and Toronto, with a Kyle Lowry 3-pointer and a Serge Ibaka dunk on either side of a Curry layup got the deficit down to 92-89 with 7:59 left, forcing Steve Kerr to call a timeout.
While no update on Durant’s injury has been issued, video was shown of the star forward leaving the arena in a walking boot.
Scott Cacciola: The Raptors have their own superfan — no, really, he calls himself a “superfan.” His name is Nav Bhatia, and he’s an area car dealer and longtime season-ticket holder whom I profiled several years ago. He’s become a celebrity in the Toronto area, never more so than during the team’s run to the finals this season.
Anyway, as I was walking to the arena before the game, I saw Bhatia stopping for selfie requests with fans about every 5 feet — or 1.5 meters. A line eventually formed, and Bhatia stood there for like 20 minutes to pose for photographs. He eventually made his way inside the arena (where he did several interviews with local television reporters) and now he’s courtside in his usual spot for the game of his lifetime. Quite a scene.
Bhatia gave me one of my all-time favorite quotes when I talked to him for that story in 2014: “I’m an addict of basketball. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t womanize. But I Raptorize. That’s it.”
When you consider how well Golden State has shot from 3-point range, and how poorly Toronto has done from long distance, the fact that the game is just 84-78 going into the fourth quarter is fairly shocking.
The Raptors have gotten just 14 points from Kawhi Leonard, but they have five players in double digits, with the supporting cast taking a star turn at home. Marc Gasol, as he has so many times since being traded from Memphis, has proved to be a tough interior presence, and has 17 points and 7 rebounds.
The Warriors, shooting 15 of 32 from 3-point range, are led by Stephen Curry’s 26 points, but he has slowed down considerably in the second half, buoyed some by Klay Thompson who has 20 and DeMarcus Cousins who has 13.
The Raptors have already had a few big runs in this game, and one more could get them a lead in a game that they have no business winning with their star playing below his typical standards and the team shooting just 20.8 percent on 3-point attempts.
The Warriors now have 12 minutes to hang on to a six-point lead to keep their season going.
Golden State has repeatedly run its lead to double digits, but the Raptors are proving feisty. A 10-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers from Fred VanVleet kept them in the game and Golden State called a timeout, up 82-75 with 2:12 left in the quarter.
Klay Thompson is up to 20 points and DeMarcus Cousins is at 11 in support of Stephen Curry who has 26. But Golden State has also gotten key minutes from Kevon Looney, a rugged center playing his way through a chest injury that was expected to keep him out for the remainder of the finals. He has been grimacing up and down the court, but that has not stopped him from banging with Toronto’s bigs under the basket and even drawing a key foul from Kyle Lowry — Lowry’s fourth of the game.
Lowry and Marc Gasol, who have struggled with foul trouble in this series, are both up to four for the game and VanVleet has three. Down the stretch that could be vital information.
Golden State is off to a 13-7 start to the half and is now up, 75-63 with 7:00 left in the third quarter.
Stephen Curry hit another 3-pointer, getting him to 26 points and Klay Thompson also connected from distance. The Warriors are 14 of 26 from 3-point range while Toronto is just 3 of 18.
Kevin Durant being out for the remainder of this game is a huge blow to the Warriors, and his availability for the remainder of the series (if Golden State wins tonight) should be in doubt, but right now the rest of the team seems to be rallying together to take advantage of a night in which the Raptors are truly struggling with their shooting.
Kevin Durant is out for the remainder of the game with what the team has described as a right lower leg injury. He will have an M.R.I. tomorrow.
Toronto needed a run at the end of the second quarter to get things close, and they got one, getting Golden State’s lead down to just one point with 43.3 seconds remaining. But a Stephen Curry 3-pointer and a Kevon Looney putback had the Warriors’ lead back to 62-56 as the quarter ended.
Golden State has been undeniably sloppy since Kevin Durant left the game following the re-injury of his right calf, but the Warriors have managed to outscore the Raptors by a point since the injury.
Curry is up to 23 points to lead all scorers, and Klay Thompson has 12, but the key to the resurgence without Durant was undeniably DeMarcus Cousins, who has 9 points and 5 rebounds in just six minutes of action, looking as dominant as he has at any point in his time with the Warriors.
Marc Gasol leads Toronto with 15 points, and Kawhi Leonard has 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
The key to the second half may be foul trouble. Golden State’s Draymond Green has three fouls — and already has a technical — so he will have to be on his best behavior, but Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet also have three fouls each. As the Raptors like to send bodies at Curry repeatedly to try to frustrate the dominant shooter, having two of the players charged with that task in foul trouble could give Curry some room to work.
No official announcement has been made about the status of Durant in the second half, but based on his vocal frustration as he walked off the court, a return seems unlikely.
Toronto has muscled its way back to a six-point disadvantage, 54-48, with 3:28 remaining in the half thanks to some tough play from their players and some sloppiness on behalf of Golden State.
Stephen Curry turned the ball over two more times, DeMarcus Cousins missed a few free throws, and, most important, Draymond Green picked up his third foul of the game — then, after arguing with officials, got his sixth technical foul of the playoffs. One more and he will receive a one-game suspension.
Kawhi Leonard is starting to assert himself, and is up to 11 points. Marc Gasol leads the Raptors with 13.
DeMarcus Cousins had yet to check in before Kevin Durant was injured, but the former starter came in shortly afterward and made three quick baskets including a wide-open 3-pointer. He also fought hard for a few rebounds.
Thanks to that injection of energy, the Warriors’ lead had actually increased to 48-37 when Nick Nurse called a timeout for Toronto.
The key for Golden State has been getting a third offensive option going alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and if Durant can’t be that option, this is the time for Cousins to step up.
There are still more than seven minutes left in the second quarter, and a tough home team like the Raptors will want to head into halftime on some sort of run, and to do that they’re either going to need to slow down Golden State’s shooters or start getting more production from Kawhi Leonard (6 points), Pascal Siakam (6) or Kyle Lowry (2).
The fans in Toronto initially cheered loudly when it became clear that Durant was injured, but Kyle Lowry and some of the Raptors were fairly demonstrative in their support of the frustrated star and the crowd at Scotiabank Arena quieted considerably.
Scott Cacciola: What a wild first half. I feel like the crowd is trying to process everything that’s already happened — while enjoying the hip-hop stylings of Baka Not Nice during this timeout. (Baka Not Nice is signed to Drake’s record label, which is probably not a total coincidence.)
Kevin Durant tried to drive past Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and ended up simply letting Ibaka take the ball as he collapsed to the ground, grabbing his right calf in pain.
The Warriors’ star, who has been so brilliant in his return, was immediately taken off the court and will have the calf examined, but a return to the game seems extremely unlikely considering how severe the strain had been and how much time he’d missed with it the first time around.
Golden State is up, 39-34, but much of that seemed to be momentum on both ends of the court caused by Durant’s return. If he cannot play, this series could be as good as over.
Between the first and second quarters, Steve Kerr was asked by ABC’s Doris Burke about Durant, and the Warriors’ coach gushed about his star.
“He’s pretty good I think,” Kerr said. “He just changes the whole game with his shotmaking and the attention he draws from the defense.”
Scott Cacciola: No concert between the first and second quarters, but Vince Carter was introduced along with several other former Raptors at center court and was greeted by an enormous ovation. It was probably even louder than the ovation Wayne Gretzky got earlier in the game, which is a sign of how much Carter still means to fans in the Toronto area and impact that he had on popularizing the sport in Canada.
Raptors was a second-year player for the Raptors when he won the N.B.A.’s slam dunk contest in 2000, and it was a seminal moment for a lot of Canadian children — like Jamal Murray, who was just 3 years old at the time and told me that the dunk contest was one of his earliest memories.
“I would try to go between the legs just like him,” said Murray, who emerged as a star for the Denver Nuggets this season.
After Stephen Curry put Golden State back in the lead with a free throw, the Warriors closed the quarter strong, up 34-28.
Kevin Durant continued to look like he’s somewhere near 100 percent, hitting his third 3-pointer of the game (on three attempts) and showing some extra effort, diving over Serge Ibaka for a loose ball and getting into a war of words with Fred VanVleet after Durant had been called for a reach-in foul on the small guard.
Curry leads all scorers with 14 points, Durant has 11 and Draymond Green even got in the action with an open 3-pointer, with Golden State shooting 7 of 10 from 3-point range in the quarter.
The Raptors, meanwhile, are just 1 of 6 from 3-point range, with Marc Gasol anchoring them with 10 points as Kawhi Leonard has been a bit out of sorts, shooting 2 of 6 for 6 points.
Considering the shooting advantage, the Raptors have shown a great deal of fight in this game, and even a mild downturn in Golden State’s shooting, or an uptick in Toronto’s, could change the lead quickly.
With an incredible 9-0 run, the Raptors were able to take a 21-19 lead and were up, 23-21 when Fred VanVleet fouled Stephen Curry when Curry was in the act of shooting a 3-pointer. Curry hit his first two attempts before a timeout was called, tying the score at 23-23, but Toronto appears to be taking advantage of a stretch in which Kevin Durant is out resting his calf.
The scoreless run for Golden State had included turnovers from Curry, Kevon Looney and Klay Thompson, with Marc Gasol proving particularly disruptive on the defensive end.
Scott Cacciola: Marc Gasol is having a huge first quarter for the Raptors. And what a coincidence: I wrote a story for today’s paper about how Memphis might be the Raptors’ greatest base of support outside of Canada, all because of Gasol and the successful years he spent with the Grizzlies. Fans in Memphis still adore him.
Scott Cacciola: One of the interesting things about playoff games is that the timeouts seem almost endless, and we can thank the league’s television broadcast partner for that. At previous games, the Raptors have trotted out local rappers for miniature concerts — during timeouts! Which is crazy! But there you go. During the first timeout tonight, the team’s game operations crew unfurled an enormous flag that covered nearly the entire court. It read: “NOISE.” I don’t really think this crowd needs to be reminded to make noise, but the Raptors aren’t taking any chances.
Meanwhile, Warriors Coach Steve Kerr is leaving Klay Thompson in with two fouls. Kerr trusts him a great deal not to pick up a third.
It was a quick start for the Warriors’ offense, with Stephen Curry hitting a 3-pointer on the team’s first possession and Kevin Durant connecting twice from 3 in the first three minutes.
Things have clicked offensively, with Golden State hitting seven of its first nine shots, including all five attempts from 3-point range, but the Raptors have hardly wilted. After Klay Thompson fouled Marc Gasol with 7:11 left in the first, putting Gasol on the line for two shots, the Warriors were only leading 19-12.
Thus far Durant has not appeared limited in his movements, and his presence seems to have relaxed the rest of the team.
With Kevin Durant back, the Warriors went with their small starting lineup — the Hampton’s Five to some — with Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson starting alongside Durant.
Durant, as he had been doing before his injury, lined up for the tip, timed the first attempt poorly and then was outjumped by Toronto’s Marc Gasol for the ball. And with that, Game 5, a game that could decide the series, is underway.
Scott Cacciola: Pregame news conferences tend to be staid affairs, free of insight. Coaches don’t want to give anything away, and that seems especially true in the N.B.A. finals when the stakes are so high. But Raptors Coach Nike Nurse is an unconventional guy with an unconventional background and an unconventional approach, and he doesn’t mind sharing now and then.
Such was the case before the Raptors headed to Oakland for Games 3 and 4, when Nurse essentially said that he was hoping his team could return to Toronto with the series tied at two games apiece. Instead, the Raptors returned with a 3-1 series lead. So before tonight’s game, Nurse gave a lot of the credit to Kawhi Leonard — not necessarily for Leonard’s play on the court (though his play has been extraordinary) but for some choice words that Leonard shared with his teammates in the locker room before their trip to the west coast.
“I was like, ‘All we got to do is go get one,’” Nurse recalled. “And Kawhi said, ‘Expletive that, let’s go get them both.’”
Yes, Nurse actually said “expletive.” One can assume Leonard used a different word.
Stephen Curry/Kyle Lowry
Klay Thompson/Danny Green
Kevin Durant/Kawhi Leonard
Andre Iguodala/Pascal Siakam
Draymond Green/Marc Gasol