OAKLAND (AP) — The biggest challenge of this five-year run for the Golden State Warriors has arrived.
Win three in a row, two of them on the road — or else.
It is quite the predicament, and one that they’ve never faced in the NBA Finals. Golden State is on the brink of being dethroned as champions, after a 105-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night put the Warriors in a 3-1 hole in this title series.
Game 5 is Monday in Toronto, which will spend the next three days in delirious anticipation of seeing the Larry O’Brien Trophy getting hoisted on Canadian soil.
Not that the Raptors are ready to celebrate yet.
“We’ve won three games, it’s the first to four,” Kyle Lowry said. “We understand that they’re the defending champs and they’re not going to go out easy. They’re going to come and fight and prepare to play the next game. That’s how we’re preparing ourselves. We’ve got to prepare ourselves to play the next game. We haven’t done anything yet.”
“It’s not over,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “It’s not a good feeling right now, obviously, but we have been on both sides of it. And for us it’s an opportunity for us to just flip this whole series on its head, and you got to do it one game at a time. It sounds cliché — and for us that is literally the only way we’re going to get back in this series — is give everything we got for 48 minutes, everybody that sets foot on that floor in Game 5.”
Klay Thompson made a strong return after missing Game 3 with a strained left hamstring and scored 28 points with six 3-pointers in what might have been the final game after 47 seasons at Oracle Arena before the team’s move to new Chase Center in San Francisco next season. Stephen Curry added 27 points but shot just 9 for 22 and 2 of 9 from 3-point range on the heels of his postseason career-best 47-point outing in a 123-109 Game 3 defeat.
Serge Ibaka scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench for the composed and confident Raptors, who for a second straight game found an answer to every Warriors threat at raucous Oracle — where home fans were stunned and silenced when the final buzzer sounded.
Golden State’s hopes of a third straight title are hanging by a most precarious thread. The Warriors will be quick to say that even a 3-1 deficit in the finals isn’t insurmountable.
The Warriors learned that the hard way.
They blew such a lead in 2016, falling twice at home to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the Warriors’ collapse that year was largely due to Andrew Bogut getting hurt in Game 5 and Draymond Green losing his cool and earning a one-game suspension. The Raptors have no such injury concerns, no such behavioral matters to deal with right now.
The Raptors are as poised as can be.
They were in trouble in each of the first three rounds of these playoffs — down 1-0 to Orlando, down 2-1 to Philadelphia, down 2-0 to Milwaukee. It steeled them. Toronto got better every step of the way.
Golden State looked the exact opposite on Friday night. The Warriors are still without Kevin Durant, endured a night where Stephen Curry struggled and where their biggest boosts came from Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney playing through the pain of a cartilage injury in his upper body.
The Warriors made a run. Curry’s 3-pointer with 3 minutes left pulled Golden State within eight and gave the Warriors a chance.
And then they scored three points the rest of the way before making the long, slow walk off the court and to the locker room.
It’s very possible they made that walk at Oracle for the last time.
When Golden State was down 3-1 in the West finals to Oklahoma City — and Durant — in 2016, it needed to win just one road game in order to escape that mess.
They need to win in Toronto twice now, after not being able to win at home even once.
Now, the biggest challenge of the Warriors’ five-year run is officially here.
“You just try to win one game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s what we did a few years ago against OKC. Win one game, and then you move forward. So that’s our focus now. We’ll fly to Toronto (Saturday) and take a look at the film, see what we can do better and try to win a game. We have won a lot of games over the years, so we’ll try to win another one.”
Raptors: Toronto overcame being outrebounded 29-18 in the first half and a 42-38 deficit overall. … The Raptors were 10 of 32 from deep after making 17 3s in Game 3, but converted 23 of 24 free throws Friday.
Warriors: The Warriors’ streak this year of 19 straight postseason games scoring 100 points ended. It was 25 dating to last season’s run. … Golden State fell to 4-2 this postseason in games following a loss. … Livingston played in his 100th career playoff game with the Warriors, the fifth in team history to reach the mark. … The Warriors held a closed pregame shootaround 2 1/2 hours before game time.
Hall of Famer Al Attles, the Warriors’ former general manager, coach and player, attended Game 4. It was the first game in approximately eight months for the 82-year-old Attles, who has had health issues.
Durant missed his ninth straight game since the injury May 8 in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets.
Kerr is done providing every detail and step of Durant’s rehab progress.
“We’re hoping he can play Game 5 or 6. And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire,” Kerr said. “There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not. So tonight he’s not playing.”
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