The Toronto Raptors entered Monday’s Game 5 with the chance to close out the Golden State Warriors and secure the first NBA title in franchise history. After 48 wild minutes that included the return, and exit, of Kevin Durant, the Warriors were able to stave off elimination, securing a 106-105 victory to force Game 6 in Oakland.
At the outset, optimism reigned for the Warriors, with Durant in the middle of it all. The former MVP announced his presence with authority, converting his first two shots to push Golden State to an early advantage.
Durant’s energy (and shot-making) was infectious, with the visitors opening the evening 5-of-5 from three with the ball zooming around the floor in distinct Warriors fashion.
The Raptors would not cede control, however, using a 9-0 run to stem the tide and take their first lead at 21-19.
While the early moments were fast-paced and action-packed, things gave way to a jumbled, referee-driven mess for a stretch at the end of the first quarter. That allowed something of a “reset,” with the Warriors taking a 34-28 lead after 12 minutes of action. Stephen Curry and Durant combined for 25 points in the opening period, with Golden State burying 7-of-10 from three-point distance.
Unfortunately, things then took an ominous turn early in the second quarter, with Durant suffering a recurrence of the injury that kept him off the floor for more than a month.
The Warriors led by five points when Durant exited and, despite the clear significance of his absence, Golden State was able to respond with a big-time push from an unlikely source. That impetus came from DeMarcus Cousins, who entered for his first minutes of the game and provided a personal 7-0 run to push Golden State to a double-figure lead.
Not to be outdone, Raptors center Marc Gasol banged home a three shortly after, prompting a Warriors timeout with the margin back to 54-48.