Tell Me Who Profits (Game 5 Recap), by Rudy Ralph Martinez
The perfect player was on his way to a perfect game.
In 12 minutes of action during Monday night’s Game Five, two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant was three-of-three from three-point land and had a total of 11 points. His return put fear in the hearts of Toronto Raptors fans everywhere, displayed an unquantifiable amount of heart, and reminded the world how unbeatable the Golden State Warriors are when they’re running on all cylinders.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
With less than ten minutes remaining in the second quarter, Warriors up 39-34, Durant tried dribbling past Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and suffered a right Achilles tendon injury. He turned basketball over and immediately began to hobble, with a number of Raptors fans distastefully cheering their renewed hopes for an NBA championship. Several Raptors players, including Kyle Lowry and Danny Green, immediately took issue with the crowd’s reaction and urged them to stop. Raptors fans, swiftly realizing Durant’s humanity and what he means to the game of basketball, moved beyond their guttural response and chanted “KD! KD!” as Durant left for the locker room, helped by Andre Igoudala and followed by Stephen Curry.
During a brief post-game press conference, Warriors general manager Bob Myers tearfully took the blame for what we can now clearly deem as Durant’s hasty return from a right calf injury. “…we felt good about the process,” he said. And in Myers’ defense, Durant looked springy during warm-ups, throwing down dunks and dancing with his teammates prior to the game.
After the game, Durant took to Instagram to say the following: “I’m hurting deep in the soul right now I can’t lie but seeing my brothers get this win was like taking a shot of tequila, I got new life lol.”
His statement was in reference to the Warriors’ 106-105 victory, because although Durant’s injury was an incredibly depressing and league-altering moment, basketball still had to be played. The Warriors found themselves down six with three minutes to play, after an otherwise quiet Kawhi Leonard had seemingly capped off a historically great post-season run with ten straight points late in the fourth. It was supposed to be his knockout blow, the moment in which the Warriors dynasty would dissipate into history and join the Big Three’s Miami Heat, a victim of Kawhi’s from earlier in the decade.
But they didn’t fold.
Thompson hit a three, Curry hit a three, and suddenly the game was tied at 103. Then, with 57 seconds to go, Thompson eluded the Raptors defense for just long enough to drain another three, giving the Warriors the lead for the remainder of the game. Due to an illegal screen by Demarcus Cousins, Leonard had the ball as time expired, but he was double-teamed, and Kyle Lowry had a potential championship-clinching shot blocked by the brilliantly frustrating Draymond Green.
Green’s last-second defensive play capped off a night in which a devastating loss was followed by a momentous victory. He added after the game, “…we could have folded…I said it before: I’ve never seen this group fold. And that still stands true.”
Now the series swings back to Oakland for Game Six, as the Warriors and their fans prepare for the last-ever game at Oracle Arena, a game that’s set to be intensely emotional.
Whether the Warriors ride the emotion of losing Durant yet again and bidding adieu to Oakland to rally to a Game Six victory, forcing a Game Seven this Sunday, or whether they finally succumb to a deeper and longer Raptors team, they’ve displayed a level resilience like none other in recent NBA history.
Yes, this is the end of an era, but the accomplishments of these Warriors will live on from now ‘til Infinity.