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Raptors lose nail-biter Game 5 to Warriors, sending NBA Finals back to Oakland

Tuesday June 11, 2019

Steph Curry shoots as Kawhi Leonard defends during the third quarter of Game 5.JOHN E. SOKOLOWSKI/USA TODAY SPORTS VIA REUTERS

The Toronto Raptors came one agonizing point short on Monday of claiming their first NBA championship in club history. Now they must wait a few more excruciating days to take another shot at it.

With their team on the cusp Monday night, Canadians sat ready to celebrate. Instead, the Golden State Warriors delivered them a heartbreaking 106-105 Game 5 loss to inch closer in the series, 3-2.

The Raps must now hop a plane to California and try again at Oracle Arena on Thursday night.

Stephen Curry had 31 points and Klay Thompson had 26 to lead the Warriors on a night that saw their all-star teammate Kevin Durant make a brief and dramatic comeback.

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Six different Raptors scored in double digits in the loss, led by 26 from Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry had 18, Marc Gasol 17, Serge Ibaka 15, Pascal Siakam 12 and Fred VanVleet 11.

Outside Scotiabank Arena, tens of thousands of fans in rain ponchos packed Jurassic Park along with Toronto’s surrounding downtown streets to revel in the night together, withstanding unrelenting showers. The Raptors came into the night with a 3-1 series lead, and fans were desperate to watch their team deny the reigning champs a three-peat, and hoist the trophy at home.

Inside, the American anthem was performed by R&B artist Monica. The singing of O Canadawas left to the fans – 20,000 strong – with celebrities such as Jose Bautista, Eugenie Bouchard, Wayne Gretzky and Drake among them.

With the Warriors teetering on the brink of elimination, superstar Kevin Durant made his long-awaited series debut. The lanky, two-time NBA Finals MVP was returning from a calf injury he suffered on May 8 during Golden State’s second-round series with the Houston Rockets.

Despite his month-long layoff, Durant started hot, hitting a trio of crisp first-quarter three-pointers. On defence, he was tormenting several Raptors. VanVleet pushed back at Durant’s physicality – despite being some nine inches shorter than the Warriors star – and the two went nose to chest in a feisty argument as the first quarter was closing.

The Warriors hit seven three balls in the first quarter, while the Raps made just one. Behind Durant’s 11 and Curry’s 14, the Warriors took a 34-28 lead into the second quarter.

About three minutes into the second quarter, Durant tried to drive on Ibaka and pulled up. He collapsed, wincing and clutching his calf. Many Raps fans initially cheered his misfortune, before Ibaka and Lowry waved their arms, imploring them to stop. The cheers quickly morphed to chants of “KD” as the limping Warrior was helped to the locker room with 11 points, and his team leading 39-35.

DeMarcus Cousins entered the game, and punched in nine fast points for the Warriors, helping Curry and Thompson to a bulky 13-point Golden State lead. It brought to mind the words of outspoken Warrior Draymond Green after the champs lost Game 4 loss: “I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history?”

But the Raps would not sit in that deep hole for long. They rallied back to within three behind scoring from Gasol, Leonard and Siakam. Remaining that close was tight with Curry rolling, and they trailed 62-56 by half-time.

VanVleet opened the second half with the starters for the third straight game. He was sporting the signs of his fearless Game 4 play – seven stitches just under a bruised eye and a new mouth guard to protect his recently repaired teeth. He hit three from beyond the arc to energize his squad, and stuck to Curry like glue.

Lowry, the longest-tenured Raptor and its floor leader, contributed six points in the quarter, while the Warriors limited Leonard to just one on 0-of-3 shooting. The champs held a paper thin 84-78 lead going into the fourth.

The long-time Raps point guard kept scoring and creating. He dribbled in and dished off to Ibaka for a monster dunk that pulled Toronto to within three. Every bucket from there got ear-splitting applause from the red-shirted, glow-bracelet wearing crowd – from a Leonard put-back to a wide-open Norman Powell dunk.

They finally pulled into the lead with five minutes left as Leonard scored four straight buckets.

The Warriors kept clawing. Curry would be the night’s hero instead in the final seconds as the house went quiet.

Game 6 is Thursday and a possible Game 7 would be Sunday back in Toronto.

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