TORONTO — An incredible win. A horrible loss.
The Warriors recorded an epic, gut-wrenching victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, perhaps the toughest in the history of their dynasty on Monday. In one of the most emotional wins ever, they staved off elimination to fight for at least one more game.
So, hello, Oracle Arena. See you Thursday, for a real farewell.
Stephen Curry, whose 3-pointer in the waning seconds helped seal the 106-105 win in Game 5, was tearing up in a postgame interview.
“I have a lot of emotions right now,” he said, pulling his jersey over his eyes to wipe away tears.
“On the one hand, I’m so proud of them,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “But I’m just devastated for Kevin. It’s a bizarre feeling … an incredible win and a horrible loss.”
Kerr’s team once again responded as the “(bleeping) giants” he called them several weeks ago. His players were gutted, stunned, but they battled.
The Warriors started the night with the boost of their teammate Kevin Durant returning. They weathered the gut punch of Durant going down after reinjuring his leg in the second quarter. They withstood the furious rally of a talented Raptors team, the emotional roar of an arena, a city, a country.
Photo: Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle
Image 1 12
And they survived.
None of it went as expected.
In the first quarter, Durant looked like his old-time all-world self.
In the second quarter, Durant fell onto the court with another injury.
In the third quarter, Durant left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot.
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors held off the Raptors in the final seconds for the win.
It took a collective effort, but it mostly took Curry and Klay Thompson reverting to their Splash Brothers way on a rainy Canadian night. They combined for 12-of-27 three-pointers. The Warriors hit 20 3-pointers in all.
And now the entire tenor of the series has shifted. They don’t want to admit this in Toronto, where they were ready for a party. But it has.
The pressure has flipped onto the Raptors, even with Durant out. The Raptors have to fly across the country and try to win a third game at Oracle Arena. They know they can do it. But they also know how hard it will be.
And then, if they lose that, it’s a Game 7 against the two-time defending champions for everything.
“One game turns the series,” Steve Kerr said. “It changes the momentum. It changes the feel.”
The feel of everything has changed. Durant was back with the Warriors and you could not only see the emotional lift it gave his team, you could feel it. The Warriors were energized, crisp. They were themselves; the best version of what they have been all season. Durant was fully engaged, clearly enjoying himself.
And then with 9:46 to play in the second quarter, the roof caved in. The good feelings came to a screeching halt. The worst that anyone had imagined happening took place. Serge Ibaka stole the ball from Durant who fell to the ground and grabbed low on his right calf. Exactly where he had been injured before.
You knew instantly: his evening, his season, perhaps his Warriors career – done. He limped off the floor, helped by trainer Rick Celebrini and Andre Iguodala with Stephen Curry trailing behind them. Not long after, he left the arena on crutches in a walking boot.
The shocking impact of the injury was multiplied by the sound of Raptors fans applauding when Durant went down and the image of some Toronto fans waving goodbye to him. The behavior of those fans tainted the feel-good vibe this series has carried to this point. Though Raptors players quickly turned and told their fans to be quiet, and some fans responded with a “KD, KD” cheer, the damage was already done. The feeling of mutual respect between opposing fans, in part vanished because of the crass behavior of some of the Toronto fans.
The reaction could have been because the arena could sense Game 5 was already starting to slip away, with the Warriors looking like they were back at full strength. If Durant was back and playing like his old self – which he was – the entire tenor of the series would change.
The series stands at 3-2. Gut wrenching. Emotional. Unpredictable.
And, fittingly, with one last date in Oakland.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/The-Warriors-recorded-an-epic-gut-wrenching-13967171.php.