After disappointing performances in Games 3 and 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors returned to the North to face off against the Toronto Raptors in a must-win Game 5. The Warriors were getting some help for this important game as Kevin Durant was cleared to play for the first time since Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals nearly a month ago. Back in the starting lineup after that extended absence, Durant looked like he hadn’t missed a step. Durant scored 11 points in 12 minutes of action, going 3/3 from long distance as the Warriors jumped out to an early lead.
But it was only a brief appearance as Durant went down in the second quarter, leaving the game with what was later confirmed as an Achilles injury. It was an absolutely devastating blow to Durant, this team, and everyone who loves basketball. Hopefully the two-time Finals MVP will have a speedy recovery and return being better than ever.
Despite being without Durant for the final three quarters of the game and Kevon Looney for most of the second half, the Warriors led for much of Game 5. But the Raptors came charging back in the fourth quarter, taking a late lead and seeming to be on their way to the franchise’s first title. But thanks to some clutch play in the game’s final moments, the Warriors picked up the 106-105 win, leaving the Raptors with a 3-2 game advantage in the Finals.
Looking back at the game, three things stood out as the reason the Warriors were able to get this season-saving victory.
Three-point shooting tells the story
After their offense came to a halt in Games 3 and 4 , the Warriors looked more like themselves in Game 5 as they were finally able to make some three-point shots. Durant was a big part of this as was perfect from long distance in the game.
In addition to making his own shots, Durant’s presence freed up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant’s presence freed Curry up in the first quarter as he scored 14 points while from 1⁄2 long distance in the initial frame. Curry’s first quarter scoring included this three-pointer that gave the Warriors their first points of the night.
Thompson scored just six points in the first quarter but went 2⁄3 from long distance, including this make that gave the Warriors the early seven-point advantage.
Though Durant only played those 12 minutes, the Warriors’ backcourt did find it easier to get shots off throughout the entirety of Game 5. Including that first quarter, Curry scored 31 points while Thompson scored 26 points in Monday night’s win while going 7/13 from three-point range.
As a team, the Warriors shot 20/42 from long distance with quite a few players getting in on the three-point shooting act. That even included Draymond Green, a player whose shooting from beyond the arc has been much maligned in these Finals and this season. Green went 2/4 from long distance including this basket that pushed the Warriors’ lead to four points late in the game.
While the Warriors were better offensively in Game 5, they also did a better job slowing down the Raptors’ three-point shooting. After the Eastern Conference champions went 17/38 from long distance in Game 3 and 8/15 in the second half of Game 4, the Raptors shot just 8/32 from three-point range in Game 5.
While Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol had good nights from beyond the arc and Kawhi Leonard knocked down some late-game three-pointers that felt like daggers, the rest of the Raptors had trouble making the same shots that they did in the previous two games. Danny Green and Pascal Siakam each went 0/4 from three-point range while Kyle Lowry went 1/6 from long distance.
There’s that cliché that “it’s a make or miss league” but that was very much the case when it came to Game 5. The Warriors made their three-pointers and the Raptors didn’t and that was a major factor in determining who won this game.
Forced into action, Cousins capitalizes
Durant forced from the game reinserted DeMarcus Cousins into the Warriors lineup. While Cousins played poorly in Games 3 and 4, he played much better when pressed into extended action on Monday night. Cousins scored 14 points on 6/8 shooting in Game 5. While Cousins struggled to finish around the rim in Games 3 and 4, he was much more effective in Game 5 as you see on this play early in the second quarter.
That was a shot that Cousins likely would not have converted in Games 3 or 4. Cousins even got into the act from beyond the arc, knocking down a three-pointer with eight minutes to go in the second.
After landing back on the bench with Durant’s return to the lineup, Cousins could have easily checked out and not been ready to step up. But the big man was ready when his number was called and gave the Warriors some important minutes.
Cousins also pulled down six rebounds and blocked one shot in his nearly twenty minutes of Game 5 action, someone who could contend with the Raptors’ big men and secure rebounds for the Warriors.
With Durant out for the final three quarters of Game 5, the Warriors needed Cousins to give them something offensively in this must-win game. Cousins was ready for the challenge and played a big part in the Warriors extending this series.
The stretch that saved the season
After Leonard went on a personal 5-0 scoring run, the Raptors led 103-97 with just under three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game. It looked like the Raptors had both hands firmly on the Larry O’Brien trophy and they were ready to wrestle the mantle of NBA champions away from the Warriors. After all the injuries and challenges this Warriors team has had to endure in this postseason, one might have understood. They had just ran out of gas. Instead, the Warriors pieced together a closing stretch that stole the game away from the Raptors and allowed them to get out of Canada with a win.
The Warriors outscored the Raptors 9-2 in those final minutes to earn the victory, a run that was predicated by their defense. The Warriors forced Lowry and Leonard into contested shots as they moved away from their trap-heavy defense and elected to defend the Raptors’ stars straight up.
That the Warriors got some stops and created turnovers led to production on the other end of the court. This included one three-pointer from Curry and two from Thompson, including this make that gave the Warriors a three-point advantage with under a minute remaining in the game.
Though the Warriors had chances to put the game away, they did give the Raptors life with a backcourt violation and a (questionable) offensive foul on Cousins. With the Warriors leading by one point with fifteen seconds left in the game, the game came down to the Raptors’ final possession. This is what transpired:
The Warriors swarmed Leonard, forcing the Raptors’ best player to give up the ball, eventually finding its way to Lowry in the corner, who put up the shot. But thanks to the smart defense of Green, who left his man at just the right time, Lowry’s three-point attempt was blocked, hitting the back of the backboard to seal the victory for the Warriors.
With the win, the Warriors send the series back to Oakland for Game 6 trailing 3 games to 2 in the best-of-seven series. Oracle Arena, in the final game the Warriors will ever play at that building, should be at its loudest and most raucous for that game on Thursday night as Dub Nation tries to lift up the hurting-but-resilient defending champions and push they to do something great.