Playing for injured star Kevin Durant in a farewell to the arena when they became a dynasty, the Golden State Warriors are set for an emotional NBA Finals showdown on Thursday against Toronto.
The Raptors own a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven championship series despite a 106-105 loss on Monday in which Durant ruptured his right Achilles tendon in his first game back after missing a month with a right calf injury.
The Warriors, seeking their third consecutive NBA crown and fourth in five seasons, take inspiration from Durant into their final game at Oakland’s Oracle Arena before moving to a new $1 billion home next season in San Francisco.
“To protect our home court, feed off our crowd’s energy, play for K and try to keep our season alive, there are a lot of things that you can tap into for energy,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “We’ll be ready.”
Fellow 3-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson says Golden State’s expects historic support from fans.
“We’re just thinking about enjoying this last show at Oracle,” Thompson said. “I expect our fans to be the loudest they’ve ever been, especially in the name of Kevin and bringing his type of spirit to the fight and the competitiveness.
“We deserve it, but more importantly Kevin does for what he gave this team, this organization. There wouldn’t be (championship) banners if it wasn’t for his presence. So we expect our crowd to be loud for him.”
Durant, Most Valuable Player of the past two NBA Finals, underwent surgery Wednesday before the Warriors conducted their final arena practice.
“It’s going to be an epic night for sure,” Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins said. “Going to be a lot of emotions and a lot of passion in the building.
“We just got to find a way to grind through it and make something happen. No matter what type of adversity hits this team we find a way to fight through.”
Road teams 4-1 so far
The Warriors would force a seventh game in Toronto on Sunday if they can win one for Durant.
“That definitely comes into play,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “We’ve all seen his love for the game. Those 11 minutes he played were enough to give us the spark we needed. So now we want to continue to try to build on that.”
History still favors the Raptors as only once in 34 attempts has a team rallied from 3-1 down to win the NBA Finals, that coming in 2016 when LeBron James led Cleveland back to a title against the Warriors.
And road teams are 4-1 so far in the series, the Raptors having taken two earlier at Golden State.
The Warriors must shut down Kawhi Leonard but contain a balanced attack that produced six double-digit scorers in game five.
“Our guys competed like crazy. That’s the main thing,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Toronto is tough to guard because they have got a lot of passers and a lot of shooters and they put you in some difficult spots.
“But everybody who came in was prepared to play and they were flying around and rotating. We were able to pull it out. So we know that’s what it’s going to take here as well.”
Raptors eye Curry, KT
Curry scored 31 points with 5-of-14 3-point shooting in game five while Thompson had 26 points off a 7-of-13 effort from beyond the arc. Golden State’s 20 3-points in the contest were the second-most in any NBA Finals game.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to control those two,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “They’re excellent at pushing off to create space. Their screens are long, wide and moving. So you got to work doubly, triply hard sometimes. You got to absorb contact.”
For Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry, the idea is to contain “The Splash Brothers” if not silence them.
“They’re going to make shots. But you got to make them a little bit tougher sometimes,” Lowry said. “You’re not going to stop them from shooting threes but you can make them a little bit tougher and try to contest them better.
“When they’re on the floor, you’ve got to be aware of them at all times.”