The Golden State Warriors held onto their NBA title for at least another game on Monday with a 106-105 victory over the Raptors in Toronto.
Kevin Durant returned to the starting lineup for the Warriors and scored 11 points before he re-injured his right leg early in the second quarter. He left the game and did not return.
The organization has been downplaying the severity of Durant’s injury since it occurred a month ago against the Rockets in the Conference Semifinals. Early speculations after reviewing his re-injury on Monday suggest that Durant may have torn his Achilles, which would sideline him for a long period of time.
Durant is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season and would likely leave Golden State after three years and at least two rings. His status since the injury was strictly limited to elimination games. But the decision to play him could prove disastrous.
At first, it did not appear as if the Warriors would need him at all. They were able to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers without him and seemed to be on their way to the sixth three-peat in NBA history.
Any speculation that the Warriors were better without Durant went out the window when they met the Raptors. Toronto’s depth and the dominance of Kawhi Leonard propelled them to a three games to one advantage after stealing two games at the Oracle Arena (In game three, the Warriors were without Klay Thompson as well as Durant).
Stephen Curry scored a postseason career-high 47 points in game three, but could not take down Toronto’s attack alone. It had to be an oddly satisfying moment for LeBron James, who single-handedly took on a number of stacked Golden State squads over the years.
But the Warriors rose to the occasion on Monday in a do-or-die fifth game in Toronto. Despite losing Durant, they were able to stay on top throughout the majority of the game thanks to a steady barrage of three-pointers from Thompson (seven) and Curry (five). All told, Golden State hit 20 shots from beyond the arc.
But Kawhi Leonard would finally come alive midway through the fourth quarter and scored 11 points in a three-minute span. This gave Toronto a six-point lead with only three minutes remaining. At this point, Raptors coach Nick Nurse decided to use a timeout while his team, specially Leonard, seemed untouchable. The Warriors would make him pay.
The legend of the “Splash Brothers” (which is the nickname for the unmatched Golden State shooting duo of Curry and Thompson) continues to grow with each passing June. Thompson connected on two three-pointers and Curry added two more, quickly swapping a six-point deficit for a three-point lead.
The Raptors would ultimately squander a chance to win the title on the final possession. Despite a full 15 seconds to work with, they failed to get a good look and lost by one.
The Warriors now trail three games to two and will host game six on Thursday. It will be the final game played in Oakland’s Oracle Arena, which is the oldest stadium in the NBA. The Warriors will relocate to San Francisco next season.
If Golden State wins, a seventh game will be played in Toronto to decide the 2019 NBA Champion. The Warriors are attempting to become the first team to win three straight titles since the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers did it from 2000-02. The Raptors have never won a championship.
Much like the Raptors, the St. Louis Blues missed a chance to secure their first ever championship in front of their home fans on Sunday. The Blues fell 5-1 to the Bruins to force a winner-take-all seventh game in Boston on Wednesday.
The Blues have already won twice in Boston in the series, including a 2-1 victory in a critical and controversial game five on Thursday. St. Louis was ahead 1-0 midway through the third period when Boston’s Noel Acciari was blatantly tripped by Tyler Bozak of the Blues. Shockingly, no call was made and David Perron gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead almost immediately.
The Bruins would record their only goal of the night with about seven minutes remaining, but could never make up the two-goal deficit imposed by the blown call. It is certainly a valid argument to say that the game could have gone into overtime had the correct call been made. Unfortunately, it needs to always be remembered as a significant turning point in this series if it ends a certain way.
But the Bruins also stole a second game on the road on Sunday when goalie Tuukka Rask saved 28 shots and kept the Blues off the scoreboard until midway through the third. The only shot that did slip by Rask did not appear to do so in real time and had to be reviewed.
Boston’s Brad Marchand scored the first goal early in the game and the Bruins maintained a 1-0 lead until the final period. In the third, they exploded with goals from Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman and David Pastrnak along with an empty net score from Zdeno Chara.
Even those with limited sports knowledge would agree that the home team has a natural advantage, but that has not been the case in the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams have dropped a pair of home games entering game seven. In fact, the Blues have a 6-7 record at home throughout the entire postseason. They are 9-3 on the road.
The puck is set to drop in Boston at 7 p.m. central time. The Blues are looking to secure the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 52-year history. It would be the seventh title for the Bruins and first since 2011.
In more somber trending news relating to Boston, former Red Sox legend David Ortiz was shot at a club in his hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. The future Hall-of-Fame slugger is expected to make a full recovery despite taking a bullet to the back at nearly point-blank range.
A team of surgeons operated on Ortiz for six hours and improved damage inflicted on both his intestines and liver. Amazingly, there is not expected to be any longterm impact on his health after his recovery. The gunman ran up on Ortiz after hopping off of a motorcycle, which is shown on the club’s security video. The suspected gunman and the driver of the motorcycle are both in custody.
The Red Sox sent a plane to Santo Domingo on Monday to bring Ortiz back to Boston to continue his treatments.
Ortiz hit 541 homeruns throughout his 19-year career, 483 of which came with the Red Sox. He helped lead Boston to World Series Championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013.