POINT absolutely proven. We should never have expected the Golden State Warriors to abandon their title, their dominance and their will-to-win without a supreme fight.
Out-played, out-numbered, out-ranked. And they still managed to grab a lifeline in the NBA Finals that has forced a Game 6 on Thursday night in Oakland. Monday’s 106-105 thriller than defibrillated the defending champions back from the dead in the closing minute illustrated their greatness.
Strength in numbers? Potency in sheer bloody-minded determination. And yet the next-season ending injury sustained by Kevin Durant casts a shadow over their return home. The Toronto Raptors will still possess their second chance to triumph and wrestle the championship away.
Kevin Durant finished the playoffs as the only player in NBA history to average 30 PPG on 50-40-90 shooting in a single postseason (min. 5 games). pic.twitter.com/GoDw8a3MbG
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 12, 2019
Durant’s cameo last time out was curtailed by an Achilles tear long before the atomic explosion from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson that prolonged this battle. Yet he made a small contribution nonetheless. And with Kevon Looney also struggling, presumed absent, have Golden State got enough to defy fate once, and then twice?
Much will hang on DeMarcus Cousins, surely set to return to the starting line-up, and required to return to his All-Star best in what will be the final NBA game in Oakland and perhaps the last of his current deal with the Dubs. In both his team’s victories in this series, he has scored over 10 points and added at least six rebounds. Even shy of his prime, his ability to impinge upon Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka’s shooting and passing will be critical in holding the Raps in check.
Offensively, Steve Kerr is left with the three-man game: Curry, Thompson and Everyone Else Combined. The Warriors converted an astonishing (even for them) 20 three-pointers in Game 5 while at a 47 per cent clip, utterly reliant on their prowess from long-range.
Even peak Cousins would not alter the dynamic. Toronto must find ways to switch and lean better on the Splash Brothers. Do that, and surely a fatal blow will land.
“Kevin Durant is out, the Warriors are done.”
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson: pic.twitter.com/YQkK9A31ML
— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) June 11, 2019
“Those guys are going to get off shots,” Kyle Lowry confirmed. “They're going to get up their attempts. They're going to make shots. But you got to make them a little bit tougher sometimes. They got a couple of loose ball offensive rebounds, transition breakdowns.
“You're not going to stop them from shooting threes, but you can make them a little bit tougher and try to contest them better. There's a lot of things that we learned from that film that we feel like we could do a better job of.”
Which is what makes Canada’s Team great value at 2.25 to generate a wave of euphoria north of the border. In their debit is that seed of doubt, that they blew a best shot and that a 3-1 advantage could be binned.
Golden State, at 3.30 to complete a 4-3 comeback that would trump their own prior capitulation to the Cavaliers, are still long shots in spite of it all (although for those who believe in miracles, Thompson is 41.00 for Finals MVP, having converted 57% of his threes in the four games he’s appeared to date).
Never too high, never too low pic.twitter.com/bi2JdMdbVu
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 12, 2019
Momentum, says Curry, is their greatest crutch. “It's definitely a real thing. It's just a matter of can you capitalise on it once the next game starts and lock in and focus on details and kind of see the adjustments the other team is going to make, especially in the playoff series because that happens, they watch film, try to tinker a little bit.
“But momentum and just confidence in terms of what we're trying to accomplish every possession, every quarter, in order to win the game. It's definitely a real thing.”
Win or lose, Golden State merit our respect and admiration. And while history only remembers the winners, they can only hope for one more unforgettable rally to tee up the highest stakes game of them all.
Best bet: Go under 210.5 total points in Golden State – Toronto at 2.04.