Down 2-1 heading into Game 4 of th NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors knew they were in must-win mode against the Toronto Raptors.
In front of loud home crowd in what could have been the final game at Oracle Arena, Golden State came out strong. It held a double-digit lead in the first quarter.
Despite struggles shooting in the initial half (2-of-17 from distance) Toronto kept it close. In fact, Kawhi Leonard and Co. were only down four at intermission.
Toronto then took full control in the second half. Leonard went into domination mode. Golden State’s star backcout, primarily Stephen Curry, could not answer.
In the end, these Raptors won by the score of 105-92 to take a commanding 3-1 series leading heading into Game 5 in Toronto Monday night.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from Toronto’s monumental Game 5 victory.
Winner: Serge Ibaka
The Raptors needed a spark from either Ibaka or Marc Gasol in this game. With the latter struggling to do anything of substance, Ibaka stepped up big time. He was taking guys off the dribble and hitting big shot after big shot.
Ibaka ended up scoring 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting while nabbing four rebounds in the game. Defensively, he was on his game. Toronto was also plus-11 in the 22 minutes Ibaka played. What a big-time game from the veteran.
Loser: Stephen Curry
We can make excuses about Curry’s performance Friday night. He had almost willed his team to victory in Game 3 with a top-10 Finals scoring performance, playing all but four minutes of action. It’s clear Curry is all but out of gas. Even then, it’s the Finals. He needed to play like the two-time MVP he is.
That did not happen. Curry was completely lost on defense, missing out on rotations throughout Game 4. He also hit on 9-of-22 shots, including a 2-of-9 mark from distance. Fred Van Vleet dominated Curry defensively. The end result was one of the worst playoff performances we’ve ever seen from the three-time champ.
Winner: Draymond Green
During the Warriors’ five-year run of domination, they have seen Green come up big at the most opportunistic times. That did not change during Game 5 Friday night. Green acted as a catalyst on defense, helping hold Toronto to 34% shooting in the first half.
Green’s all-around game continued on the offensive end of the court. He ended the game having tallied yet another near triple-double (10 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists). This just goes to show us how under-appreciated Green is from a national perspective.
Loser: Steve Kerr
As has pretty much been the case throughout this series, Nick Nurse vastly out-coached Kerr. While Nurse was out there with seamless rotations, Kerr struggled to find the right mix. It’s been the same issue we’ve seen since Kevin Durant went down to injury in the Western Conference Semifinals.
We’re also openly wondering exactly what the Warriors did on offense here. They refused to run the offense through Curry. They refused to go with the pick and roll that had defined the pre-Durant era in Oakland. In the end, this cost the Warriors big time. It also might be too late for Kerr to adjust.
Winner: Kawhi Leonard
Toronto needed everything from the NBA Finals MVP candidate to keep this one close early. He scored 14 of the Raptors’ 17 points in the first quarter. In fact, Leonard shot 5-of-8 in the opening stanza with the rest of his teammates going 1-of-13.
With his Raptors down four at the half, Leonard took it upon himself to help the team to a 37-21 third quarter. In the end, that was the difference in a 13-point Raptors win. Leonard finished the evening with 36 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 11-of-22 from the field.
Loser: Andre Iguodala
It’s rather apparent that Iggy is nowhere near 100% while dealing with a calf injury of his own. He was slow on rotations Friday night and couldn’t hit a wide open shot if his life depended on it. The former NBA Finals MVP shot just 1-of-6 from the field and committed two turnovers. Whenever you have more turnovers than made field goals, it’s not a good thing.
Golden State was hoping that the Iggy of 2015-16 would return with Durant sidelined. That has not happened over the past couple games. And it cost the Warriors big time Friday night.
Winner: Klay Thompson
A hamstring injury might have cost Thompson Game 3, but he was out there in full force Friday night. The all-around game that has come to define Thompson was in full force. He’s played elite-level defense against the combination of Kawhi Leanard, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry. It really was a sight to behold.
Though, it’s what Thompson did on offense that made the difference here. He dropped a team-high 14 points during an otherwise sluggish offensive performance from Golden State in the first half. Thompson finished the game with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, playing inspired basketball in the process. This loss is not on him.
Loser: Danny Green
After hitting 6-of-10 from distance in Game 3, Green’s perimeter shot just was not there Friday evening. He missed on all five of his threes in the first half. A vast majority of those were wide-open shots.
Green did hit a big shot to stop a semi-run from Golden State in the third quarter, but he was nowhere near the difference-maker we saw Wednesday night. The NBA champ dropped just three points on 1-of-8 shooting. The good news? Toronto was plus-13 in his 30 minutes.
Winner: Fred VanVleet
This youngster did not have a tremendous all-around game. He shot just 3-of-9 from the field and added eight points tin the mix. That’s box score scoring. What Van Vleet did on defense against Stephen Curry was legendary.
Curry shot just 1-of-6 with VanVleet on him throughout the game. The Warriors’ star was at 50% with other Raptors players guarding him. It might not show up in the stat line, but Van Vleet was a difference-maker. He was also an inspiration after losing a tooth, getting stitches for a bloody eye and returning to the court.
Loser: DeMarcus Cousins
For the second consecutive game, Cousins finds himself in the loser circle. Obviously pumped in front of the home crowd in Oakland, this veteran let the emotions get a hold of him. He turned the ball over three times within the first four minutes.
Cousins ended up starting the third quarter (another mistake from Kerr). But once it became clear that he wasn’t going to be a viable option, Kerr sat Cousins for both Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut. How might this impact Cousins’ free agency?
Bonus winner: Oracle Arena
There’s a good chance that this was the final basketball game for the oldest arena in the NBA. It’s not the way Warriors fans would have liked to go out. But they brought a tremendous energy to the game, creating an electric environment throughout.
If this is the final game in Oakland before the Warriors’ move to San Francisco, we have to give the old arena credit. So many great moments have happened here. The Warriors long-awaited NBA title on the home court. LeBron James leading his then-Cavaliers team to a first ever title. The ghost of Oracle’s past will always remain within Oakland and the broader NBA. That’s for sure.