TORONTO – The scoreboard said Golden State 106, Toronto 105.
The reality was that both teams lost.
It’s almost unimaginable: an NBA Finals game where neither team felt like celebrating afterward. That was the bizarre reality on Monday night, after the Warriors staved off elimination by rallying in the final moments to beat the Raptors and send this series back to Oracle Arena for Game 6 – on a night when Kevin Durant’s season came to an end.
Durant has an Achilles injury. The Warriors know it’s bad. They’ll find out how bad on Tuesday.
“It’s devastating,” Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard said.
He wasn’t talking about losing the game.
He was talking about seeing Durant get hurt.
Leonard knows what it’s like to have the game taken away by injury. He missed most of last season with a leg injury, one that limited him to nine games. He saw his commitment to the game questioned – the same way Durant had by some in recent days – and came out the other side an even better player.
That was the hope after Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The series truly seemed insignificant, with both sides aching over Durant’s situation.
“I love KD,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I love watching him play. When anybody goes down you’re saddened by it, but when one of the great players like that goes down, it’s almost shocking.”
Durant had missed the previous nine games with what the Warriors insist was a strained calf muscle. This is not a calf injury anymore. Warriors general manager Bob Myers gave a postgame news conference where he delivered the emotional news that Durant hurt his Achilles.
“Kevin takes a lot of hits sometimes, but he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t,” Myers said. “Basketball has gotten him through his life. I don’t know that we can all understand how much it means to him. He just wants to play basketball with his teammates and compete.”
This should have gone so differently for the Warriors, the team that might be going for a fifth consecutive championship had it not wasted a 3-1 lead in the 2016 finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
They’re the ones who were down 3-1 in this title series. All they did on Monday night was rally from six points down in the final 3 minutes, get a fantastic defensive stand on the last play of the game to deny Toronto a win and a championship, and send the series back home for one final game at Oracle before moving to San Francisco next season.
They have a chance at the ultimate comeuppance, a 3-1 finals rally of their own.
Maybe when practice resumes Wednesday, that will bring some joy.
There was no joy on Monday night. The Raptors weren’t celebrating. Neither were the winners, who lost much more than Toronto did.
“Those talking heads who say we’re better without him, that’s just ludicrous,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “Like, that’s crazy. This is the best player in the world. You could put him on the 30th best team in the league, and that team will make the playoffs. That’s how talented he is.”
The Warriors won the last two NBA championships largely because of Durant.
If they win the next two games for another championship, it’ll be for Durant.
“It’s a team full of heart,” said Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, who spent a year recovering from an Achilles injury that denied him a monster contract last summer and saw him sign with Golden State on a mid-level deal. “It’s as simple as that. We’re fighters. It’s in our DNA. We’re going to go down fighting. Period.”
Durant would want it no other way.
“I’m just going to pray for the guy,” Thompson said.
Leonard said he will be praying for Durant also.
“In this league we’re all brothers,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “At the end of the day, we’re all brothers and it’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.”
The atmosphere will be raucous for Game 6 on Thursday night. The Raptors are getting a second swing at winning a title. The Warriors are looking to make sure they end their Oracle era with a victory.
The joy that should have come out from one locker room on Monday night will, for certain, be exhibited by someone on Thursday night.
“We’re going to give everything we got,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “I would like to say I would guarantee the win – who knows how it’s going to end up – but we’re going to give everything we got. We’re going to fight, we’re going to compete, and I know if we get a chance to talk to him the next two days, that’s what he would expect.”
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