OAKLAND, Calif. – There was a predictable sting that pained the Toronto Raptors after Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
They were so close.
And then they had to fly so far.
Whatever they were feeling after Monday night’s loss to Golden State is in the past, which is consistent with the way the Raptors have tried to handle their business throughout playoffs. Game 6 of the title series – one where the Raptors have outplayed the two-time defending champion Warriors – is Thursday night, when Toronto will take a second shot at grabbing its first NBA title.
“The moment is the moment, but we still are staying in it,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “We’re not too up, we’re not too down. We’re just, ‘One game, hey, we lost it.’ Now we’ve got to move on to the next one.”
The next one – the next chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy – has arrived.
Golden State’s 106-105 victory in Game 5 sent the series back to Oracle Arena, which the Raptors have basically turned into Jurassic Park West this season. The Raptors are 3-0 on the Warriors’ home floor, all three of those wins coming by double digits, two of them in this series.
Thursday is the last NBA game that’ll be played at Oracle. The place will be rocking.
The Raptors won’t mind whatsoever.
“You’ve got to be a little more tough-minded on the road,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
His team has been tough-minded everywhere.
Take away Golden State’s 18-0 run at Toronto to start the second half of Game 2 – a game where the Warriors still needed a final-seconds 3-pointer from Andre Iguodala to close the win out – and a 9-2 run to pull out a dramatic comeback victory for the champs in Game 5, also in Toronto, this series has largely been controlled by the Raptors.
Not many probably expected that to be the case.
Through five games, the Raptors have been outscored in only four of the 20 quarters. They’ve won every fourth quarter, albeit by small margins. They’ve struggled guarding Klay Thompson – he’s 20 for 35 from 3-point range in the series – but the rest of the Warriors, Stephen Curry included, are being held to 33 percent from beyond the arc.
And now the Warriors know Kevin Durant’s not coming back to help the cause.
“Toronto is tough to guard because they have got a lot of passers and a lot of shooters and they put you in some difficult spots,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But everybody who came in (Monday) was prepared to play and they were flying around and rotating. We did everything we could to hang in the game on the road and we were able to pull it out. So we know that’s what it’s going to take here as well.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse, to his credit, hasn’t changed his principles much during the playoffs. When his team was down 1-0 to Orlando, down 2-1 to Philadelphia and down 2-0 to Milwaukee, he kept insisting that the score of the series doesn’t matter until someone wins four games.
Same rules apply now.
Up 3-1, now up 3-2, it’s still eyes on the prize – even though the ultimate prize was seconds away from being in hand Monday.
“They all hit you hard,” Nurse said. “Listen, I’m like anybody that was there. The outcome of that one changes things a little bit. But I’ll say this: I’m absolutely thrilled to be coaching in another finals game. This is awesome.”
One last win, and it’ll be the most awesome night in Raptors history.
And the missed chance of Game 5 will be forgotten.
“You don’t want to dwell on it, you don’t want to harp on it, you don’t want to let it seep in or leak out or let it drain you, because that can be an emotional blow if you let it,” Raptors guard Danny Green said. “But we don’t want it to be an emotional blow to our team. We want to stay physically and mentally and emotionally confident and not doubt ourselves and understand that we know we can play better.”
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