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Three Questions from the Raptors ahead of Game 5 vs. the Golden State Warriors

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The Raptors are one win away from a championship, and Jannelle Moore of Golden State of Mind was kind enough to answer some questions for us before the potential closeout game on Monday.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still incomprehensible, but the Toronto Raptors are one win away from bringing home the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history. To hear the Bay Area take on Durant’s potential return, Steph’s ability to lead his team through adversity and more, we spoke to none other than Jannelle Moore of Golden State of Mind:

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We’re reminded every day that the Warriors have come back from a 3-1 deficit before. If Durant returns, how confident are you in a series turnaround? If Durant doesn’t return, is the series practically over?

It depends on how Kevin Durant returns. He hasn’t played in nine games and was just cleared for practice today. However, a KD that’s at even 50 percent will be better than the production the Warriors are getting out of everyone not named Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That said, since KD’s been out for so long, it may be like he’s not even there anyway if he’s not playing up to a decent level. As far as the series is concerned, nothing is absolute. For there to be a Game 6, the Warriors know what they need to do, and must do it — with or without KD.

HQ’s Take: I’d be lying if I said Durant’s potential return from injury doesn’t scare me, even just the teensiest bit; when healthy, he’s a series-altering player. Still, I believe the Raptors are equipped to take down any version of this Warriors team. The Raptors’ collective basketball IQ is off the charts, and Nurse has shown a proficiency for adapting on the fly (even if it took a couple series of practice to get there).

Klay Thompson returned from injury and had himself a game. If Golden State is going to come back strong, who do you expect to lead the charge: Klay or Steph Curry?

At this point, it will take a collective effort from the Warriors’ stars. Strength in Numbers is now Strength in Stars. But, if I had to pick someone I expect to lead the charge, it’s Curry. He is the leader and the pulse of this team — the team goes as he goes. This is why he can’t afford to be passive for the sake of coach Steve Kerr’s motion offense (don’t get me started, SMH). Steph must have the mentality that if the Warriors go down tonight, they will go down fighting and it starts with him.

HQ’s Take: I completely agree. Much like Durant, Curry possesses the ability to change a game in an instant. He can break down defenses with brilliant ball-handling and shoot the lights out with barely any breathing room. When he’s on fire, defenses must guard Curry from the moment he steps across half-court. Klay is one of the most talented three-point shooters of all time, but he can’t consistently create open looks for himself. Even if Klay ends up gunning down the Raptors with a barrage of threes, he’ll likely have Steph Curry to thank for stretching the floor and finding him in open space.

Who do you think have been the top five players in this series, on either team? I’d love to hear your rationale behind what’s sure to be a difficult ranking.

My top five in no particular order are Kawhi Leonard, Curry, Thompson, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet with an honorable mention of Ibaka. Leonard and Curry both have had signature moments in the series. Thompson has been solid for the Warriors while Siakam and VanVleet have been playing out of their minds.

HQ’s Take: That’s interesting that you don’t have Kyle Lowry in your top five. As a Raptors fan, I consider it my civic duty to constantly explain to the world why he’s so important. Lowry is a rare, indispensable star that contributes in ways that don’t show up on the box score. Even when he’s not scoring, he runs an oft-deadly offense, making smart passes and finding open looks for his teammates. On the defensive end, his hustle is undeniable; Kyle draws charges and chases down loose balls at a ridiculous rate.

My top five players in the series so far (again, in no particular order): Kawhi, Lowry, Curry, Siakam and VanVleet with an honourable mention for Klay. Fred and Pascal have played tenacious defense, contributing invaluably to the team’s success by pressuring their assignments and making intelligent reads. Klay has been tremendous, but his team is down 3-1 right now so it’d be tough to rank him above those guys.

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Thanks again to Jannelle for speaking with us! Please make sure to check out Golden State of Mind for more Warriors content.