With the NBA championship on the line, it came down to one shot — as it so often does in basketball.
Make the shot, and the Toronto Raptors are crowned NBA championships. Miss it, and it’s back to the Oakland for Game 6, giving the almost-dead Golden State Warriors another chance to breathe.
So with four seconds left in the game and the Warriors clinging to a 106-105 lead, Kawhi Leonard dribbled the ball with two Golden State defenders on him. He dished off to Fred VanVleet who tossed the ball to Kyle Lowry for the winner.
Lowry appeared to be open in the corner and launched his potential series-winning shot.
But to the fans’ horror, Warriors’ defender Draymond Green flew out of nowhere to partially block the ball, and the shot didn’t even hit the rim. The Raptors fell 106-105, that close to winning their first championship.
The missed shot was a bitter pill for the Raptors and their fans, who had packed the arena and gathered by the thousands outside in Jurassic Park hoping to celebrate the first NBA title in franchise history.
And going into the final minutes, the mood inside the arena and out was sky-high. The Raptors clawed their way back from as many as 15 down to take the lead in the final minutes. But back-to-back clutch threes by Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” — Steph Curry and Klay Thompson — put the Warriors ahead by one, the thinnest margin of victory.
The Warriors started the game on fire, with superstar Kevin Durant in the starting line-up for the first time in the series. Durant, suffering from a calf injury, hit three from deep to give his team an emotional lift, which they parlayed into a six-point first quarter lead.
However, early in the second quarter, Durant fell to the court re-injuring his leg and putting him out for the series. Raptors fans inside the arena as well as those watching outside jeered the fallen superstar as he writhed on the court in pain. While Durant plays for the opposition and often trolls fans, fan reaction like the one at this bar in Toronto was embarrassing, to say the least.
Although they could have thrown in the towel at that point, Golden State regrouped from the injury and with contributions from the mercurial Boogie Cousins, the volatile Draymond Green and out-of-this-world three-point shooting from the Splash Brothers (the Warriors finished 20-42 from distance), they somehow eked out a victory.
After the game, Draymond Green spoke of the Warriors refusal to fold even when all looked lost. ”When you’re down six with a couple minutes to go in an elimination for these guys to win a championship, we could have thrown in the towel. We could have folded but we didn’t,” Green said. ”I said it before: I’ve never seen this group fold. And that stands true still.”
Kawhi Leonard led Toronto scorers with 26 points (on only 9-24 shooting), but the story of the game was the Raptors failure to hit from beyond the arc. With wide-open looks all night, the Raptors only managed 8-32 from three, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
”We had a chance to win a championship tonight and we didn’t do it,” guard Fred VanVleet said. ”We didn’t play well enough, we didn’t execute enough down the stretch and that stings a little bit.”
So now it’s on to the Golden State for Game 6. While no one wanted to go back to play a game in the unfriendly confines of Oracle Arena, the Raptors are still up 3-2 and feel strongly that they’re not going to shoot this poorly two games in a row.
Game 3: Raptors Win Handily Over Undermanned Warriors
The Toronto Raptors seized control of their NBA finals series against the Golden State Warriors by easily taking Game 3 on the road, 123-109.
The final outcome of this one was never in doubt as all Raptor starters scored in double figures, leading to an easy victory over the undermanned Warriors to grab a 2-1 series lead.
Kawhi Leonard led the Raps with 30 while Steph Curry or the Warriors had his highest ever scoring playoff game, dropping 47. However, Curry’s efforts were wasted as none of his teammates stepped up — only Draymond Green (17) and Andre Igoudala (11) hit double figures. And with superstars Klay Thompson (hamstring) and Kevin Durant (calf injury) and big man Kevon Looney (collarbone) on the sidelines, the severely out-gunned Warriors were never in this game.
”They outplayed us. They deserved it,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. ”I’m very proud of our effort, and now we’ve just got to bounce back and hopefully get back in here Friday night and hopefully get a little healthier and get some guys back.”
“Getting guys back” is what Golden State needs to get back in this series. Even if Thompson returns for Game 4, which is no sure thing, defeating the Raptors is going to be no easy task, especially with the starters and bench players all making their three-pointers — Danny Green was 6-10 from deep, Kyle Lowry was 5-9 and Fred VanVleet was 3-6.
With the threes falling and the defence making stops, combined with the fact that Golden State’s usual free-flowing game just seems out of synch, there’s huge confidence among Raptors players and fans that the championship is within reach.
Game 4 goes on Friday at Oracle Arena — a must-win for the Warriors.
Golden State’s theme this year is “Strength in Numbers.” With a mounting injury list, the Warriors are going to have to buy in to this philosophy if they hope to prevail in Game 4.
Game 2: Warriors Outlast Raptors to Steal Game 2 of NBA Finals
With former President of the United States Barack Obama in the house and injuries piling up for the opposition, the Toronto Raptors had a golden opportunity to grab a stranglehold in their NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors and show the basketball world that they’re ready to compete on the global stage.
Unfortunately for the swelling number of basketball fans in this country, they missed the chance and allowed the Warriors to overcome a growing list of injuries and a terrible first half to eke out a 109-104 win over the Raptors.
Everything looked to be going the Raptors way in the first half. They continued exerting themselves on the offensive boards and the stingy defence held the normally slick-shooting Warriors to under 30 per cent, taking a 59-54 lead into the half.
However, after the break, the Warriors stormed out of the gates in the third quarter, going on an 18-0 run and seizing control of the game. The Raptors couldn’t make a basket and allowed the Warriors to get into their patented free-flowing offence.
“We didn’t score the ball in the first five minutes. … That third quarter, I feel like it really killed us. 18-0 run, if can’t score no baskets, you’re not going win no game,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored 34 points but also had five turnovers.
And even though the fourth quarter was a slog, with neither team shooting particularly well, the Raptors managed to stick around and shaved the lead to three until Andre Iguodala hit a three with 5.9 seconds left to send fans scurrying for the exits.
President Obama, a huge basketball fan as well as a friend of Raptors President Masai Ujiri, sat beside NBA commissioner Adam Silver. When he was shown on the big screen during a break in the first half, the fans gave him a standing ovation and chanted “MVP, MVP.” Obama was also in Ottawa this past week for speaking engagements as well as meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The two teams now head back to California for Game 3, which will take place on Wednesday at 9 pm (ET)
What to Watch for in Game 3:
1 Injured Warriors
With injuries piling up for the Warriors, trainers are working overtime to get their star players healthy. Kevin Durant, already on the sidelines with a calf injury, will be joined by Klay Thompson who has played so well in Games 1 and 2. Thompson pulled a hamstring and is day-to-day.
2 Shooting Woes
The Raptors had a horrible shooting day, shooting only 37 per cent from the field and 28 per cent from 3. Pascal Siakem, who missed only 3 shots (14-17) in Game 1, was a miserable 5-18 in Game 2. Marc Gasol (2-7) also struggled from the field as did Kyle Lowry (4-11) This must improve if the Raptors are going to have any hope of stealing back home court advantage.
Toronto Raptors Defeat Golden State Warriors 188-109
The Toronto Raptors continued their hot streak in the playoffs last night, defeating the Golden State Warriors 118-109 in their first finals appearance in franchise history.
The win makes it five in a row for the Raptors, whose confidence never faltered against the defending champs.
Here, five takeaways from Game 1 and what to expect going forward.
1. An Unfamiliar Defence
It’s official — the defence we’ve seen from the Raptors has become part of their team identity. It’s an intensity we saw in spurts throughout the first series of this playoffs but from their bout with Philadelphia onward, this group’s tenacity on defence has become habit.
And it’s something the Warriors haven’t seen in the playoffs before. Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and, at times, Danny Green did a great job hounding Steph Curry and running him off the three-point line, while former defensive player of the year Marc Gasol hedged aggressively on screens, deflecting Curry passes or forcing him to pick up his dribble.
“He was big,” VanVleet told theScore when asked about Gasol’s help on Curry. “We need help. You can’t guard those guys with one person. You need your bigs to be really good, and I thought him and Serge (Ibaka) did a great job of being up there to give us support. The guy’s a former Defensive Player of the Year. We’re going to bank on him to be great and be a second line of defence.”
Pascal Siakam, who was by far the best player on the court offensively, was harassing on the defensive end as well, locking up Klay Thompson when he was switched onto him and acing his defensive assignments against Draymond Green, who shot 2 for 9 and finished with only 10 points.
What to look for: The Raptors switch-heavy defence should continue to disrupt the Warriors offence. Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr will likely give his team another game before he makes any drastic adjustments to his starting lineup or offensive scheme.
2. New Series, New Pascal
Ironically, Pascal Siakam looks to have found a matchup he likes in a player who’s known for his defence. The domineering defender, Draymond Green, seemed to have trouble with Siakam’s size and quickness, as the young power forward bullied his way inside or beat him for easy baskets in the open court on a number of occasions. On plays where Green contested well, Siakam finished over top of him.
He finished with 32 points on 14-of-17 shooting — including a stretch where he went 6-for-6 in the third quarter — adding eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal in 40 minutes of action. He also kept Green honest when he attempted to clog the lane, shooting 2-of-3 from three.
“You’ve got to take your hat off to him,” Green said of Siakam after Game 1. “Even before this game, what he’s been able to accomplish this year, he’s become a guy. He put a lot of work in to get there and I respect that, but I’ve got to take him out of the series and that’s on me.”
What to look for: Siakam will likely cool off for game two, but look for him to continue to use his size against Green throughout this series. Hitting his open threes will also go a long way in opening up driving lanes for himself and teammates.
3. No Durant is a Big Deal
The Warriors were a championship team before the arrival of Kevin Durant but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come to rely on the NBA superstar’s offensive production throughout their last three playoff runs.
Both Curry and Thompson did their part, scoring 34 and 21 respectively, but filling the 30-point void Durant has left will continue to be a challenge for the defending champs.
What to look for: Look for Curry to amp up his aggression on offence and get up a lot more three-point shots.
4. Leonard as Playmaker
The chemistry Kawhi Leonard has built with his team throughout this playoffs is now more evident than ever.
Once again, Kawhi navigated out of double and triple teams to find the open man on the perimeter. And with the Raptors role players continuing to make their shots, the team should continue to have success in the half-court set.
What to look for: On defence, the Raptors gave Kawhi a break, as he guarded less offensively threatening players like Andre Iguodala and Green. If Curry or Thompson heat up, the Raptors may make use of a rested Kawhi in the games to come.
5. Danny Green Finds His Groove
After missing his first three-point shot, the Raptors faithful feared the worst, but Green finally broke out of his shooting slump going 3-of-7 for 11 points.
What to look for: The Raptors will need his three-point shooting going forward against the Warriors potent offence. While it appears he’s broken out of his slump, Green still missed a few wide open threes. He’ll need to cash in on those looks going forward as these two teams get to know one another and the margin of error becomes smaller.