Watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals in the early hours of Tuesday morning (2am) live on Sky Sports Arena
Monday 10 June 2019 20:05, UK
The Toronto Raptors are one win away from dethroning the Golden State Warriors and earning their first NBA championship in franchise history.
Live NBA: Golden State @ Toronto
Toronto Raptors 3-1 Golden State Warriors
- Game 1: Warriors 109-118 Raptors
- Game 2: Warriors 109-104 Raptors
- Game 3: Raptors 123-109 Warriors
- Game 4: Raptors 105-92 Warriors
- Game 5: Warriors @ Raptors – Tuesday June 11, 2am
- Game 6 (if needed): Raptors @ Warriors – Friday June 14, 2am
- Game 7 (if needed): Warriors @ Raptors – Monday June 17, 1am
- All games live on Sky Sports Arena
The Raptors took advantage of the Warriors’ ongoing injury crisis to take control of the series with two wins at Oracle Arena and now return home with a 3-1 lead and on the brink of history.
Kevin Durant is listed as questionable after returning to practice for the Warriors, but the All-Star forward only participated briefly in Sunday’s session before leaving the court with ice on his troublesome calf.
With Klay Thompson (hamstring) and Kevon Looney (costal cartilage fracture) playing – perhaps dangerously – through the pain barrier, and DeMarcus Cousins still woefully under-cooked having just returned from his quad injury, it’s hard to see where the Warriors are going to find the improvements required to beat the Raptors.
Despite being banged up themselves, the Raptors all appear to be functioning somewhere near their best, and will be relieved that the ‘Sixth Man’ of the Finals – Fred VanVleet – is fit to play after taking an elbow to the face in Game 4.
Key Battle – Raptors vs Nerves
Over the first four games of the series, the Raptors have proven they are quite simply a better team than this iteration of the Warriors.
A half-fit Kevin Durant returning shouldn’t change that, which means the biggest barrier between the Raptors and a maiden title might be dealing with the enormity of the situation.
The scar tissue from years of playoff disappointment, more often than not brutally dished out by LeBron James, remains in Toronto and there will undoubtedly be a huge amount of tension at the Scotiabank Arena.
Fans began queuing on Sunday to secure a favourable spot to watch the game from in Jurassic Park, the area outside the arena where the game will be screened to thousands.
The Warriors’ experience and championship DNA should ensure they don’t simply roll over, which means the Raptors will be required to keep their poise amid the inevitable surrounding hysteria.
Last time out
10 – That is how many more free throws the Golden State Warriors missed than the Toronto Raptors across Games 3 and 4. The Warriors’ combined 39-51 was taken advantage of by an exemplary 43-45 from the Raptors.
For all the talk of tactics and strategy, the Raptors’ efficiency at the line was one of the many fundamental areas of the game where they outplayed the Warriors.
Maintaining their high level at the line will be one of the many mental tests the Raptors will face, while the Warriors must improve if they are to up the pressure levels on their opponent.
One to watch (Warriors) – Kevin Durant
As the Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, there were those who began to argue that the two-time reigning champions might be better off without Kevin Durant. They have all gone very quiet now.
Without their chief scorer, the Warriors have found it difficult to breach the Raptors’ stifling defense, and his possible return appears to be their final hope.
It is impossible that Durant will be at his best, but perhaps the most naturally gifted scorer in the game’s history can still get buckets even if he’s only half fit.
Durant will undoubtedly influence the game on the offensive end, with the Raptors having to respect his shooting ability, but whether he can hold his own at the other end of the court remains to be seen. One way or another, it promises to make intriguing viewing.
One to watch (Raptors) – Serge Ibaka
There is one Toronto Raptor who has held a 3-1 playoff series lead over the Golden State Warriors before, and he knows better than most how severe the implications of failing to close out that advantage could be.
Serge Ibaka was playing alongside Durant on the 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder as they powered their way to the brink of the NBA Finals. Their failure to advance saw Ibaka traded to the Orlando Magic and Durant opt to join the Warriors.
Had the Thunder won and gone on to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, it is fair to say the duo may well have remained in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook, and could have gone on to win multiple championships together.
Ibaka is playing like a man desperate to prevent history from repeating itself. Six blocks in Game 3 were followed by a perhaps pivotal playoff career-high 20 points in Game 4. There is little doubt which of their former sons Thunder fans will be cheering for on Monday night.
Game 5 takes place in Toronto in the early hours of Tuesday morning (2am) live on Sky Sports Arena