Game 5 of the NBA Finals was historic but not for the reason that was anticipated prior to tip off. After advancing to their very first NBA finals appearance, the Toronto Raptors had taken a commanding 3-1 series lead over the defending championship team the Golden State Warriors. The Raptors had trailed the Warriors the majority of the game, it was a bit of an off shooting night as multiple decent looks just weren’t falling for the squad. Yet the Raptors still managed to cut a sizable lead down to a single possession a time or two. In the moments leading up to a few seconds shy of the 3-minute mark, Kawhi Leonard whipped up a quiet storm pouring in 10 straight points to give his team the lead.
With the score sitting at 103 – 97, and Leonard on a run, Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout and just like that the momentum switched. It’s important to note that a new rule was implemented the previous season in which teams are only allowed to have 2 timeouts after the 3 minute mark. This means regardless of how many timeouts a team still has they will lose all but two. Nurse explained in a post-game presser, “We just came across and just decided to give those guys a rest. [We] just thought we could use the extra energy push.” While the timeout provided a much needed rest for his team, it also gave the Warriors a chance to regroup and rest.
In the end the timeout proved to be more beneficial for the Warriors who dropped three critical 3-point shots to reclaim the lead. That, in combination with a handful of unproductive possessions by the Raptors, missing five of their last six shots and an ill-timed turnover, led to the 106-105 Warriors victory. When asked about the momentum shift due to the timeout during his run Leonard said, “At that time I felt that he probably wanted to get us some rest. You never know. I mean, if we would have won the game, we wouldn’t be talking about it.” Fair enough. The Warriors and Raptors will meet for Game 6 on Thursday. It will be the final game played in Oracle Arena.
Fan Culture is TRASH
While the Warriors inevitably won the game. There were no winners in Game 5 as a dark cloud was cast over the night when one of the Warrior’s players suffered a devastating injury at the top of the 2nd quarter. The player was none other than Kevin Durant.
Durant had been out of the lineup for well over a month nursing a “right calf strain” injury that he sustained during the Warriors/Rockets series. There was speculation all along that the prognosis was much more severe than the team was letting on. In the May 8th game against the Rockets when Durant initially injured himself, the fans in the Toyota Center reacted with shock and empathy as they were unsure of the severity of the injury. There were gasps and then applause when Durant was able to get to his feet to be helped off of the court. That is pretty typical behavior in sports scenarios. No one gets commended for being decent; it’s just the expectation that has been set.
For reasons that the public may never know, it was announced that Durant was to return to the lineup to play limited minutes during Game 5. The powers that be cleared him to play even though he’d yet to make it through a full practice. He’d been traveling with the team and had been spotted with ice around his ankle area, not his calf, multiple times. It didn’t take a medical professional to see that it appeared as though his Achilles had been compromised in some way on May 8th.
The Warriors-Raptors series has given legs to an ugly side of fandom. First there was the incident in the Oracle arena when Warriors investor Mark Stevens shoved Kyle Lowery and spewed expletives at him during the game which was inexcusable behavior. In a classic proverbial “hold my beer” move, Toronto Raptors fans had their own display of ugly behavior during Monday night’s game. Durant contributed 11 points and two rebounds in 12 minutes before crumbling to the ground from an alleged Achilles injury. It was clear that he had re-aggravated his previous injury. It was a devastating scene only made worse by the fact that the Toronto Raptors crowd jeered and cheered the fact that Durant was injured. It took Raptors players like Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, and Serge Ibaka quieting the crowd before the fans showed any signs of decency. However it didn’t stop there, a quick Twitter search pulled the curtain back a bit further as multiple scenes from bars showed that people were gleefully cheering Durant’s injury which is truly disturbing conduct.
Regardless of how passionate a fan may be, there is no place for that kind of behavior in sports…or period. Truly this is the beginning of a conversation about how society at large views players historically, but that’s for another day.
Hopefully Durant will be able to recover fully from his injury and the rest of the series will play out with better behavior. Until further notice, it’s no longer “Oh, Canada,” it’s more like “Oh no, Canada…”