Game 6 – Friday June 14, 02:00
Live on Sky Sports Arena
An unforgettable game five
We can only hope that Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury causes some to pause the next time they suggest a player doesn’t want to play because they’re more concerned for themselves than the team.
That’s been the view of some in recent weeks – and there are suggestions it may have emanated from within the Warriors organisation – but it was put to bed on Monday night by his appearance in the starting line-up and the swift end that came to it in the second quarter.
Game five of this series will be remembered for many reasons. If Toronto don’t go on to win their first title, it will go down as an all-time epic failure.
With 3:05 on the clock they were six points up thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s continuing Jordan impression as he’d dropped 10-straight points. The bunting was being unpacked, the balloons in the rafters were ready to let gravity do its work, while the cleaning staff contemplated the confetti mop-up job.
Then Nick Nurse called a timeout and his team lost the momentum that was carrying them to their first title.
Warriors fight comes at a cost
It’ll also be remembered for the champions showing why they’ve dominated the league for the last five years. Golden State may lose the series, but they didn’t throw in the towel when it would’ve been easy to accept their fate. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry dunked Toronto’s imminent title celebrations in a big bucket of ice-cold water with three scores from the perimeter in the final minutes to rescue the series.
But it’ll mainly stick in people’s minds as the Durant injury game. We’ve talked extensively about KD’s calf in the last few weeks as it has been the biggest factor in this series. I’m not a doctor and do not have privileged access to Durant’s health reports, so we can’t say he wasn’t ready for sure, but plenty have said that if his injury occurred in the regular season, he’d miss at least another week, likely two.
You’d also wonder about the Warriors usage of him during the opening stages of the game. If he’d kept up the pace, he’d have played close to 40 minutes. This was his first game back from an extended injury where he could’ve probably used more rest. He looked uncomfortable moving on court despite his strong shooting return, and there were options to manage his in-game performance, but Golden State just let rip with him, and so went the tendons in his ankle.
Of course, players want to play, Kevin Durant wants to win, and the only hope the Warriors had of turning around the 3-1 deficit was to get him on the floor. Despite his hampered movement, he had 11 points in just 12 minutes and had gone 3-for-3 from three-point range before he went down.
The potentially career-curtailing injury will also reverberate throughout the league this summer with so many of the league’s biggest stars poised to realign in the coming months. Game five will be seen as a pivotal moment for several clubs – the Knicks, Celtics, Lakers and Clippers most obviously, as well as the Warriors and Raptors – in the years to come.
Raptors to finish the job
Whatever plays out in the coming months, however, Durant could still be making his decision as a reigning NBA champion if his teammates put in another gutsy performance tonight. Given the margin of victory in Toronto on Monday and KD’s contribution, you’d wonder how they can fill the gap.
He’s not the only issue they’re dealing with. Kevon Looney returned to playing with the help of Golden State’s medical staff, while Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson have struggled through with their complaints. Durant was the x-factor in the series though. A successful return – and he sure looked dangerous in that brief burst – and the title would go to the Warriors.
The Raptors took both road games in this series so far. That means they’ve won three of three in Oracle Arena this season. This will be the last game the Warriors play in their old building, and the emotion around that could be a factor in the way this game plays out.
But the way the series has gone, especially with Durant out, makes it hard to look past Toronto in this closing stretch. They’re getting just three points on the handicap – game three in Oakland saw the champions favoured by 6.5 to open. I’d have to think the Raptors will win the game given the effort expended in game five and the emotional fallout. I’d take Toronto on the.
On the total, the, and the Raptors have gone under in seven of their last 10 away games, so that’s the most appealing side of the market in this game.
For a player market, I’d look at Kawhi Leonard’s total assists. The line is 4.5 and the Warriors have to try to shut him down if they’re to take the series to game seven. That should mean he’ll dish the ball more to teammates in more space to score at 10/11.
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