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Analysis: Warriors fall short in their title defense, lose 114-110 to Raptors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals

Playing in their final game at Oracle Arena, the Warriors couldn’t get the victory that would push these Finals to seven games despite a valiant 30 points from Klay Thompson.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After stealing Game 5, the Golden State Warriors hosted the Toronto Raptors for Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Not only was it a game the Warriors needed to win to stay alive in this series but it was also the final game that would be played in Oracle Arena as the team will be moving into the new Chase Center in San Francisco next season.

The two teams played an intense, back-and-forth game with neither team able to run away with it. Whenever the Raptors looked like they might pull away, the short-handed Warriors responded. Whenever the Warriors looked like they were rolling, the Raptors went on a run of their own. But in the end, the injuries and the fatigue and having to deal with such an impressive and tough Raptors team, it caught up with the Warriors.

Though they had a chance to win in the closing seconds, the Warriors came up short in a 114-110 loss to the Raptors, who secured their first-ever NBA championship.

The return of Game 6 Klay

Once again, the Raptors made stopping Stephen Curry their priority on defense, constantly throwing two and three defenders at him to prevent Curry from getting any open looks. Curry had to struggle for every one of his 21 points in the Game 6 loss, which prevented him from getting into an offensive rhythm.

With his backcourt mate being constantly hounded by the Raptors, Klay Thompson stepped up and was the Warriors’ best offensive weapon on Thursday night. Thompson scored 30 points in Game 6, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. One of those three-pointers came in the third quarter as he tied the game at 76.

When Thompson is knocking down the 3-pointers in transition, you know he’s locked in.

Thompson also helped the Warriors defend Kawhi Leonard, who scored 22 points on 7-for-16 shooting and going just 1-for-5 from 3-point range. Though the eventual Finals MVP came up with some big shots in Game 6, he had to fight for all of them because of the Warriors’ defense of which Thompson was a key component.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors
Before being forced from the game with an ugly knee injury, “Game 6 Klay” was on full display against the Raptors.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, Thompson would be unable to finish Thursday night’s game. After being fouled while attempted a dunk on the fast break, Thompson fell awkwardly and tore the ACL in his left knee. After (somehow) returning to the court to knock down two free throws, Thompson’s night was over.

It was yet another devastating injury to a Warriors’ player in these Finals and an incredibly unfortunate incident for an upcoming free agent. Dub Nation and everyone else around the league hopes that Thompson will have as speedy a recovery as possible and be back on the court again soon. But when he was on the court on Thursday night, Thompson was electric and did everything he could to get his team a win.

Lowry shines early, VanVleet carries them late

Despite playing in a hostile environment surrounded by loud opposing fans, the Raptors got off to a fast start in Game 6 with Kyle Lowry leading the way. Perhaps looking to erase his ugly Game 5 shot from everyone’s memory, Lowry was dialed in early in the game. Lowry scored 21 of his 26 points in the first half of Game 6. 15 of those points came in the first quarter alone with Lowry going 4/4 from three-point range in the game’s opening frame.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors
15 of Kyle Lowry’s points came in the first quarter of Game 6, putting his poor play in Game 5 behind him and getting the Raptors off to a good start.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors were red hot from long distance in the first half of Game 6, shooting 50% from beyond the arc during that stretch. Every a player like Pascal Siakam, not known as a three-point specialist, got into the act by going 3/5 from long distance in the game’s first two quarters.

Though the Raptors regressed in the second half, those shots that fell in the first no longer dropping in, one player remained hot from long distance. Fred VanVleet scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half while going 3/7 from three-point range. Perhaps none of those three-pointers were bigger than this make that gave the Raptors a three-point lead with just under four minutes to go in the game.

The early scoring burst by Lowry allowed the Raptors to (somewhat) quiet the raucous Oracle crowd while VanVleet came up with clutch plays in the second half that prevented the Warriors from building any momentum. While Leonard rightfully deserved the Finals MVP, it was Lowry’s hot start and VanVleet’s clutch shots that got the Raptors the Finals-clinching win.

Warriors don’t do the little things, it makes a big difference

In a game where the margin of victory is so slim, the small things are going to play an outsized role. That was certainly true for the Warriors in their Game 6 loss.

The team picked an unfortunate time to struggle from the charity stripe. After being a top-five team in terms of free-throw percentage this regular season, shooting 80% from the free-throw line, the Warriors shot just 70% from the free-throw line in Game 6. Even players like DeMarcus Cousins, normally dependable from the free-throw line, missed shots and left those easy points out there.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors
Andre Iguodala came up with some big shots in Game 6, scoring 22 points, but his (and his team’s) struggles from the free-throw line cost the Warriors.
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

While the Warriors’ free throw struggles in Game 6 were surprising, their 17 turnovers did not come as that big of a shock given their play throughout the 2018-19 season (even though one would’ve expected them to be cleaned up in the Finals). Those 17 Warriors turnovers resulted in 17 points for the Raptors while also resulting in empty offensive possessions for the Warriors.

It was a particularly bad night in that regard for Draymond Green, who turned it over eight times in the Game 6 loss. Even though he posted another triple-double (scoring 11 points while grabbing 19 rebounds and handing out 13 assists), those turnovers did too much damage.

You saw just how much those little, small things can make a big difference on the Warriors’ final possession with a chance to win the game. Green bobbles the long entry pass from Andre Iguodala ever-so-slightly. It was a tough pass to handle but one with which Green usually wouldn’t have trouble. But because he mishandles it that little bit, it prevents him from getting the ball to Curry quick enough, turning an open look for Curry into a more contested one and leading to a miss on the Warriors’ final shot. If the pass from Iguodala is a little better or Green handles it better, perhaps the look that Curry gets is cleaner and he makes it. In a game between two teams as good as the Warriors and Raptors, those small things end up having an enormous impact.

Now the Warriors go into an offseason filled with uncertainty and questions, one that will likely see noticeable changes to a roster that has played in the last five NBA Finals. But even though Game 6 didn’t go their way and the Larry O’Brien trophy is no longer theirs, the Warriors showed a ton of heart and toughness in this series. Though they did not win the game, the resiliency and determination the Warriors showed in Game 6 made all of Dub Nation proud and was a worthy ending to the team’s 47-season tenure at Oracle Arena.

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