The Golden State Warriors managed to snatch yet another road victory from the Toronto Raptors, escaping Scotiabank Arena with a 106-105 win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Yet never has such a significant victory felt like such a great loss, as the defending champions lost two key contributors in Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney.
These are 5 Clutch Points from Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
KD goes down, again
Kevin Durant’s awaited return after 32 days without seeing the court gave the Warriors a glimmer of hope with their backs against the rope, now with a razor-thin margin of error facing a 3-1 deficit.
KD responded quickly, scoring 11 first-quarter points, including three of the six 3-pointers the Warriors hit in the opening frame.
Another Kevin Durant three to start the game… this one over Kawhi Leonard pic.twitter.com/RitYzAqeki
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) June 11, 2019
Then the second quarter came along, and the inevitable took place as Durant tried to switch directions, taking a hard between-the-legs dribble against Serge Ibaka and quickly feeling his Achilles tendon give out on him as he went down in pain.
Durant quickly hobbled to the sideline and called for the training staff. Klay Thompson, who was next to him, made his best attempt at comforting him, considering the gravity of his injury
KD taken out of the game after re-injuring his calf. pic.twitter.com/i3y9EfQfdG
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 11, 2019
Scotiabank Arena and those attending the Jurassic Park broadcast of Game 5 erupted in cheers, only to be silenced by Kyle Lowry, who called for some class after Durant had to be helped to the locker room. Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala quickly followed him to the halls of the venue, hoping to provide some comfort after a devastating setback, only 12 minutes into his awaited return to the court.
This graphic slo-mo zoom video shows everything that went on during that play, a ghastly moment the Warriors were forced to overcome in a win-or-go-home scenario.
A wild finish
Golden State managed to carry a six-point lead from the end of the first quarter to the start of the fourth, but was met with a formidable Kawhi Leonard, who scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.
KAWHI IS IN TAKEOVER MODE
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 11, 2019
Leonard went on a 10-point personal run in only two minutes and eight seconds, giving the Raptors their largest lead of the game at 103-97.
Then the Warriors’ resilience showed itself again, as it has many times before during this five-year run.
Down six, Klay Thompson made it a one possession game with a 3-pointer before Stephen Curry came off a pinwheel curl and buried this rhythm trey over a late-contesting Fred VanVleet to tie the game at 103 with 1:22 left.
First, Stephen Curry tied the game….pic.twitter.com/h0XqynjGdr
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) June 11, 2019
Then Thompson would strike again after Kawhi Leonard intended to trap Andre Iguodala and could only do a fly-by contest before a Klay pump-fake had him catching butterflies into the first row.
Thompson reloaded, set his feet, and swished through a wing 3-pointer to give the Warriors a three-point lead, finishing a 9-0 run to put the Raptors on their heels with a dead-silent crowd shocked witnessing this searing late-game run.
SEASON ON THE LINE. CLUTCH KLAY. pic.twitter.com/T4l2HFdc8H
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2019
The last 56.6 seconds of regulation were not short of controversy, as Draymond Green was hit with an over-and-back violation upon mishandling a pass and Kyle Lowry would drive in for a layup shortly after, leaving the Warriors with a one-point lead.
DeMarcus Cousins was then assessed an offensive foul in the following possession after a moving screen to free up Curry.
With 15.7 seconds left on the clock, the Warriors doubled Leonard down the stretch and Draymond Green managed to partially block a Kyle Lowry corner three, forcing him to miss iron as regulation expired.
A true finish for the ages.
WHAT A FINISH.
The final shot is off, and it's headed back to Oracle. pic.twitter.com/PDSoD0O1N4
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2019
A heartbreaking post-game
Celebrations would be short-lived after the final whistled blowed, as Durant’s injury was the first thing to come to mind shortly after surviving a pivotal game on the road.
“Prayers up to KD, he gave us what he could and we hope he makes a speedy recovery,” Stephen Curry said after the game. “That’s kind of the MO of our team. He sacrificed his body for us. I just feel bad for him. I got a lot of emotions right now.”
"Prayers up to KD, he gave us what he could. … I got a lot of emotions right now."
— ESPN (@espn) June 11, 2019
Durant left the arena in crutches and a walking boot, barely getting past the sea of reporters inquiring about the extent of his injury.
Durant leaving Scotiabank Arena on crutches pic.twitter.com/eccyf5bB8f
— Phil Barber (@Skinny_Post) June 11, 2019
What was initially thought to be a re-injury of his strained calf turned to be much worse. Instead, Durant was diagnosed with a torn Achilles tendon.
A visibly emotional Warriors general manager Bob Myers was tasked with breaking the news to the media, also breaking down in tears in the process.
“Prior to coming back he went through four weeks with a medical team,” Myers said. “And it was thorough and it was experts and multiple MRIs and multiple doctors, and we felt good about the process.
“He was cleared to play tonight. That was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there’s anybody to blame, but I understand in this world and if you have to, you can blame me. I run our basketball operations department.
“I don’t have all the information on what really the extent of what it all means until we get a MRI, but the people that worked with him and cleared him are good people, they’re good people.”
Video of Bob Myers’ emotional press conference via @espn. A lot of the Warriors decision makers were distraught postgame about the KD news. Myers explains decision to clear him and says, if anyone gets blame: “Blame me” pic.twitter.com/LSEt3zUuc8
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) June 11, 2019
Naturally, there is a witch hunt when it comes to Durant’s injury and perhaps unfairly so, as all precautions were taken before he made his long-awaited return after a month-long layoff.
His torn Achilles could be pointed to him coming back too early, but such is the nature of the stakes of this game. The Warriors were careful and gave him two separate workout sessions before clearing him to return, but this wasn’t solely their call, as Durant was also itching to play for a few weeks now.
With the season on the line and no sign of potential re-injury, Golden State trotted him out there, but like any other athlete first returning to full-throttle play, there are some adjustments to make. No practice coach or back-of-the-bench player can simulate a 6-foot-10 defender playing him up close or forcing him to explode off one leg for a drive to the basket.
Durant was dancing and throwing down dunks as usual in shootaround, but he was unfortunately hurt during play.
His mother, Wanda Durant, posted this on her Twitter account on Tuesday — an optimistic message for his eventual return to the court.
For ALL of you who question my son as a Man, question his Heart, question his Integrity and question his LOVE for the game of basketball, you DON’T know him. He has a heart of a true Warrior! This too shall pass. God Bless you ALL. pic.twitter.com/y0qcQ5Boga
— Wanda Durant (@MamaDurant) June 11, 2019
Down to Boogie v. 2.0
In the wake of Durant’s shocking injury, Steve Kerr was forced to put another impact player on the floor, quickly calling DeMarcus Cousins’ number to take the floor.
The big man didn’t disappoint, as he quickly went on a seven-point personal run to put the Warriors up double digits in the second quarter.
BOOGIE NIGHTS. 😈
– 6 minutes
– 9 points (4/5 shooting)
– 5 rebounds
– 1 steal + 1 block pic.twitter.com/cDgHvA01rI
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) June 11, 2019
Cousins finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block in 20 minutes off the bench — a stat line similar to the one he posted in Game 2 of the series.
While his insertion after being yanked out of the starting lineup in favor of Durant was partly for impact, his presence became even more vital after Kevon Looney reaggravated his right first costal cartilage non-displaced fracture in the second half, making him unable to continue.
Looney thinks two days of rest would allow him to play in Game 6, but clearly this Warriors team is hobbling to the finish line like a bunch of zombies at this time, as it’s tough to name a rotation player that has yet to suffer a significant injury during this stretch.
Cousins will be once again thrusted into a vital role without Durant, but it will be up to him to respond like he did in Games 2 and 5 of this series.
Draymond Green is now toeing the line when it comes to discipline, as he picked up yet another technical foul for arguing a call in the second quarter — adding up to six technical fouls and now one away from an automatic one-game suspension.
Stephen Curry became the sixth player to post 10 career 30-point games in the NBA Finals since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976-77.
Stephen Curry is the 6th player since the merger (1976-77) with 10 career 30-point games in the NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/AwkYIOP3Yp
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2019
The Warriors made a devastating 20 3-pointers on Monday, 12 more than the Raptors — the second biggest 3-point differential in NBA Finals history after the Cleveland Cavaliers went off for an NBA Finals record of 24 in 2017; 13 more than Golden State.
This team also had a 3.16% probability of pulling off a win late in the game, as teams have gone 3-92 in the last 20 seasons when trailing an opponent by six points in the last three minutes of a game.
The Warriors also maintained an overwhelming record under coach Steve Kerr, as they are now 50-2 in the playoffs in the last five years when leading by more than five points entering the fourth quarter.
Golden State improved to 3-1 when trailing in the NBA Finals under Kerr, now a sparkling 6-1 in elimination games in the past five seasons.
The Warriors also became only the sixth team in the last 40 seasons to win a road game in the NBA Finals when facing elimination.
. . .
Golden State pulled off perhaps the most impressive win of their five-year run on Monday, channeling their lauded Strength In Numbers motto to a tee when the Warriors needed it the most.
From here on, it’s likely an uphill battle for this team, down their best scorer once again and limping to the finish line with a pile of bodies that are stitched together by means to survive.
Oracle Arena will get one last giant roar on Thursday, when the two-time defending champions take another crack at staving elimination against the Raptors in Game 6 of this series.