Photo credit: @Raptors
By Jerry Feitelberg
The Golden State Warriors lost a thriller to the Toronto Raptors 114-110 in Game 6 at Oracle Arena Thursday night.
The Warriors, trying to overcome adversity with the loss of Kevin Durant in Game 5, and Klay Thompson late in the third quarter of Game 6, gave it their all, but it was not quite enough.
The Warriors showed no quit. They played with the hearts of the champions that they are. They played with courage. They did not have a full roster throughout the Finals. They lost DeMarcus Cousins in the first round against the Clippers. Cousins found his way back and played in five of the six games in the Finals. They lost Kevin Durant in Game 5 of the second round series with the Houston Rockets. They shocked the NBA by beating the Rockets in Game 6. They lost Klay Thompson in Game 2 with a strained hamstring. He missed his first game ever in the playoff. Thompson was injured late in the third quarter after he was fouled. Thompson made the two free throws and then went to the locker room. He did not return to the game. Kevon Looney suffered a shoulder injury, and he, too, missed a game. Looney should everyone what he is made of. He came back to play and played well. He had to leave Game 5 as he experienced severe pain in the injured area. He was on the floor on Thursday night.
The Raptors won a very hard-fought series. They are the champions of the NBA for the first time in their history. The Raptors, coached by first-year head coach Nick Nurse, won the Larry O’Brien Trophy 4-2. The Raptors trade with the San Antonio Spurs brought them two key players, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, who arrived to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan. How good was Leonard? Leonard, who was Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, showed that he was an excellent offensive player as well. Leonard was awarded the Bill Russell Trophy for being the Finals MVP.
The Warriors had to figure out a way to stop the Raptors’ big men. The Warriors had trouble all series with Pascal Siakam, Serge, Ibaka, and Marc Gasol. The Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, coming off the bench, showed that he was an excellent sixth man, and he was called upon to guard Steph Curry. The Raptors’ plan for Thursday night’s game was to double team Curry every time he handled the ball. Klay Thompson had the hot hand in the first half as he put 18 on the board.
The first 24 minutes of the game was extremely competitive. The Raptors’ Kyle Lowry was hot at the start of the game. Lowry knocked down 15 in the quarter. The Raptors led 19-12 about midway through the first quarter. The Warriors knew what was at stake and met the challenge. They trailed by one 33-32 at the end of the first period. The second period was nip and tuck all the way to the end of the half. There were 14 lead changes in the first half. Toronto led 60-57 at the intermission.
It was more of the same in the third quarter. The lead changed hands several times. The Warriors were leading 83-80 when Klay Thompson was fouled going in for a layup. Thompson hit the floor, grasping his left leg as he was in a lot of pain. He headed to the locker room. Someone reminded the Warriors that if he could not make the free throws, he could not return to the game. Thompson returned and sank the two free throw to give the Warriors the lead 85-80. After making the two free throw, Thompson went to the locker room. He did not return and was seen leaving the arena on crutches. The third quarter ended with the Warriors nursing a two-point lead 88-86.
In the fourth quarter, with Klay Thompson out of the game and Steph Curry on the bench, Toronto regained the lead 94-93. Curry came back in with about nine minutes left to play. Curry hit a three to put the Warriors ahead 99-96. The teams tied at 99 and at 101. Toronto went on a 7-1 run to lead 108-102. Draymond Green made a three and DeMarcus Cousins put in a layup to close to 109-108 Each team scored two to make it 110-108 with 18.5 seconds left to play. The Warriors trailed by just one 111-110 with 18.5 seconds left. The Warriors’ defense stiffened, and the Raptors turned the ball over with 9.5 seconds left. The Raptors’ defense smothered the Warriors, and Green called for a timeout. The problem was that the Warriors were out of timeouts and they were charged with a technical foul and loss of possession. The Raptors made the free throw. With 0.9 seconds on the clock, the Raptors inbounded the ball. Kawhi Leonard was fouled and made both free throws. The Raptors won 114-110 and dethroned the Warriors as NBA champions.
Game Notes: For those that care, here are the stats–Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 30, Curry had 21, Andre Iguodala 22, Cousins, 12. Draymond Green had a triple-double with 11 points, 19 rebounds, and 13 assists.
The Raptors were led by Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, who both tallied 26. Kawhi Leonard and Fred VanVleet had 22. Van Vleet knocked down 12 points in the fourth quarter. Serge Ibaka had 15.
The Warriors played their final game at Oracle Arena. Oracle has been their home for 47 years. They will be playing at the Chase Center in San Francisco when the 2019-20 season starts in October.
The Warriors will have to make decisions regarding several players. Will they bring back DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney? Will they give Klay Thompson a max contract? Kevin Durant will not play next season due to his Achilles tendon injury. Durant can opt to stay a Warrior next year even if he doesn’t play. Other teams in the NBA might be willing to offer him a four-year max contract knowing that he won’t play next season. Will Shaun Livingston retire? How will they improve the bench? Who will they get in the draft? Lots of decisions and just about three months before the players come back to start practice in late September or early October.
I know the players feel they swallowed a bitter pill. They will need to take a couple days off to erase the bitterness. They know they have the best fans in the NBA that will support them as they resume their quest for another championship next year.