Advertisement

Warriors-Raptors Game 5: Five things we might have overlooked

Warriors-Raptors Game 5: Five things we might have overlooked
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard draws a foul as he drives down the lane against center DeMarcus Cousins, forward Draymond Green and forward Andre Iguodala during the second half of Game 5. (Chris Young / Associated Press)

The drama surrounding Kevin Durant, one of basketball’s best players, hobbling off the court, the tears of Golden State’s top basketball executive, the stress and sadness of the Warriors’ best players and coaches overshadowed a classic playoff game with insanely high stakes and clutch performances Monday night.

Here are five things we might have missed because we were paying so much attention to Durant and his Achilles tendon injury during the Warriors’ 106-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals:

Advertisement

Leonard’s fourth quarter

Before Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry shot Golden State to the win by hitting three consecutive three-pointers in the fourth quarter, it appeared Kawhi Leonard had put together a career-defining stretch of basketball to seal the Raptors’ first title.

Toronto trailed by six points when Leonard checked in with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, which began a 19-7 run in which he looked like the best player in the world.

In less than six minutes of court time, Leonard was everywhere. He scored 12 points, making two clutch three-pointers, grabbed three rebounds, blocked a shot at the rim and somehow avoided a travel to find Norman Powell for a dunk.

It looked like there was going to be an epic celebration all over Canada. But it would have to wait.

Nurse’s timeout strategy

Maybe the Warriors’ defense tightened up. Maybe the Raptors’ nerves did. Or maybe something else snuffed out all the momentum Toronto had.

With more than three minutes on the clock and his team ahead by six, Toronto coach Nick Nurse called time out. The Warriors outscored the Raptors 9-2 the rest of the way.

“We had two free ones that you lose under the three-minute mark, and we just came across and just decided to give those guys a rest,” Nurse said. “And we had back-to-back ones there that we would have lost them under the three-minute mark, and just thought we could use the extra energy push.”

The energy, though, seemed to transfer to Golden State.

The Raptors had a last chance, thanks to an offensive foul called on Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins. Instead of using another timeout, Nurse elected to let play continue. A sloppy last possession ended with Draymond Green blocking a contested Kyle Lowry shot.

“It looked like it was going to be a really good shot, an open corner three, but I didn’t see who got out there and got a piece of it,” Nurse said. “But again, I was confident we would come down and play and make the right decisions and get a good shot. I have a lot of faith in those guys.”

Nurse has been terrific all postseason, making the right decisions and adjustments. But if the Raptors end up squandering their 3-1 lead, these two decisions will be heavily dissected.

Cousins has another Finals moment

The “other” star player to return from injury this series, Cousins has been used sparingly except for a great Game 2 performance, and it looked like more of the same was in store Monday.

Durant started for Cousins, and when it came time to insert a second-unit center, the Warriors went with Andrew Bogut. It took Durant’s injury for coach Steve Kerr to look to Cousins, and in a tense second quarter, he delivered.

Cousins scored nine points on five shots while grabbing five rebounds. He also had an assist and a blocked shot.

Advertisement

“DeMarcus was fantastic tonight,” Kerr said. “He stayed ready. He didn’t get the first call for that second-quarter run. We went to Bogut and then with the injury we knew we needed his scoring and he stayed ready and played a brilliant game.

“So [I’m] very happy for him, and he’s been through an awful lot himself over the last year-plus with his own injuries. So this was a great night for him individually.”

Looney’s toughness

It wasn’t easy watching Warriors reserve big man Kevon Looney play Game 5, each wince looking like it was the result of something even more painful.

Injured after a brutal collision with Leonard in Game 2, Looney was ruled out for the rest of the postseason because of a fracture in his upper chest. Somehow, a second opinion got Looney back on the court, and though clearly in pain, he made an impact in Games 4 and 5 before leaving the game Monday with the same injury.

In light of Durant’s return and subsequent injury, you wonder if the Warriors will hold back Looney or if they’ll let him continue to try to fight through it.

Kerr’s premonition

Before all of the drama of Game 5, Kerr shared his top observation from his postseason experiences, which have had him on both sides of blown 3-1 leads.

“Same thing that stands out in every series that I’ve ever been involved in — player, coach, GM — one game turns a series,” Kerr said. “It changes the momentum, it changes the feel. And so the whole focus is just win a game.”

For many reasons, this series now feels different. While the pressure hasn’t totally fallen on the Raptors yet, they’ll have to win a third consecutive playoff game at Oracle Arena — a colossal task whether Durant is on the court or not — to avoid a Game 7.

Toronto has been levelheaded and even-keeled this season, following the example set by Leonard. The Raptors handled a Game 7 against Philadelphia. They handled a 2-0 deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks.

But these are the Warriors. They won’t go away.

Toronto is going to have to take the title from them.

“We had two free ones that you lose under the three-minute mark, and we just came across and just decided to give those guys a rest,” Nurse said. “And we had back-to-back ones there that we would have lost them under the three-minute mark, and just thought we could use the extra energy push.”

The energy, though, seemed to transfer to Golden State.

The Raptors had a last chance, thanks to an offensive foul called on Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins. Instead of using another timeout, Nurse elected to let play continue. A sloppy last possession ended with Draymond Green blocking a heavily contested Kyle Lowry shot.

“I thought it looked like it was going to be a really good shot, an open corner three, but I didn't see who got out there and got a piece of it,” Nurse said. “But again, I was confident we would come down and play and make the right decisions and get a good shot. I have a lot of faith in those guys.”

Nurse has been terrific all postseason, making the right decisions and adjustments. But if the Raptors end up squandering their 3-1 lead, these two decisions will be heavily dissected.

Cousins has another Finals moment

The “other” star player to return from injury this series, Cousins has been used sparingly except for a great Game 2 performance. It looked like coach Steve Kerr made that very decision on Monday.

Durant started for Cousins, and when it came time to insert a second-unit center, the Warriors went with Andrew Bogut. It took Durant’s injury for Kerr to look to Cousins, and in a tense second quarter, he delivered.

Cousins scored nine points on five shots while grabbing five rebounds. He also had an assist and a blocked shot.

Advertisement

“I thought DeMarcus was fantastic tonight,” Kerr said. “He stayed ready. He didn't get the first call for that second-quarter run. We went to Bogut and then with the injury we knew we needed his scoring and he stayed ready and played a brilliant game.

“So [I’m] very happy for him and he's been through an awful lot himself over the last year-plus with his own injuries. So this was a great night for him individually.”

Looney’s toughness

It wasn’t easy watching Warriors reserve big man Kevon Looney play Game 5, each wince looking like it was the result of something even more painful.

Injured after a brutal collision with Leonard in Game 2, the Warriors ruled out Looney for the rest of the postseason because of a fracture in his upper chest. Somehow, a second opinion got Looney back on the court for Game 4, and though clearly in pain, he made an impact in Games 4 and 5 before leaving the game Monday with the same injury.

In light of Durant’s return and subsequent injury, you wonder if the Warriors will hold back Looney or if they’ll let him continue to try to fight through the painful injury.

Kerr’s premonition

Before all of the drama of Game 5, Kerr shared his top observation from all of his postseason experiences, which have had him on both sides of blown 3-1 leads.

“Same thing that stands out in every series that I've ever been involved in — player, coach, GM — one game turns a series,” Kerr said. “It changes the momentum, it changes the feel. And so the whole focus is just win a game.”

For many reasons, this series now feels different. While the pressure hasn’t totally fallen on the Raptors yet, they’ll have to win a third consecutive playoff game at Oracle Arena — a colossal task whether Durant is on the court or not — to avoid a Game 7.

Toronto has been levelheaded and even-keeled this season, following the example set by Leonard. They handled a Game 7 against Philadelphia. They handled a 2-0 deficit against the Milwaukee Bucks.

But these are the Warriors. They won’t go away.

Toronto is going to have to take the title from them.

Advertisement
Advertisement