The Toronto Raptors hope to celebrate the closing of Oracle Arena with a party of international magnitude, when they take a second shot at the championship Thursday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
The Raptors were two minutes away from securing Canada’s first-ever NBA title Monday in Game 5, before falling victim to a barrage of 3-pointers from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry in a 9-2 finish that was historic on at least two levels.
The 106-105 final not only produced the first one-point Finals margin since 2007, but it also made the Warriors just the sixth team in NBA history to win a potential elimination game on the road.
History remains on the Raptors’ side entering Game 6, even though the scene has shifted back to Oakland.
Of the 34 teams that have led a Finals 3-1, 33 have gone on to win the championship. The only exception was the Warriors in 2016, when the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied to win in seven games.
“We understand that the moment is the moment, but we still are staying in it,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said Wednesday. “We’re not too up, we’re not too down. We’re just one game, hey, we lost it, now we got to move on to the next one.”
The Warriors move on without Kevin Durant, who returned from a calf injury to score 11 points in 12 minutes in Game 5, only to sustain a ruptured Achilles in the same leg.
The Warriors led 39-34 at the time of the season-ending injury.
Durant confirmed Wednesday from New York that he had undergone surgery to repair the rupture.
“I expect our fans to be the loudest they have ever been, especially in the name of Kevin and bringing his type of spirit he would bring to the fight and the competitiveness,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said Wednesday.
“I know our fans will do that because we deserve it, but more importantly, Kevin does for what he gave this team, this organisation. There wouldn’t be banners if it wasn’t for his presence.”
The game will be the Warriors’ last at Oracle Arena, which opened as the Oakland Coliseum Arena 47 years ago. Golden State will move to the Chase Centre in San Francisco next season.
“This has been just an incredible environment in which to coach and play back in the day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday.
“Even when the Warriors weren’t any good, to come in here as a visitor and feel the energy in this building, you could tell that the fans loved the game.
“This was a basketball hotbed.
“And just the atmosphere out there, the energy, the noise, over the last five years with our team’s rise, combined with that organic energy that this place has always had, it’s just been an incredible experience to coach here.”
That energy wasn’t enough to prevent Raptors wins in Games 3 and 4 after the Warriors earned a split in the two series-opening games in Toronto.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Wednesday he’s not surprised the road-team has won four of the first five games in the best-of-seven.
“Both teams are really good road-teams and have been all season,” he said. “Two really tough-minded teams playing and you got to be a little more tough-minded on the road. And I think a lot of those games probably could have gone either way.”
The team that had the upper hand in 3-point shooting has prevailed in the first five games of the series.