By the time we had reached Game 6 of the last two series, we more or less knew what the Toronto Raptors were up against.
In the 76ers series, size and defence had humbled the Raptors into a one-man show. Kawhi Leonard and three other supporting performers were all Toronto needed to get wins in that series, and Leonard finally shut the door on Philadelphia with the biggest shot in franchise history. In the Bucks series, the Raptors figured out how to rattle their opponent’s role players, syncing their defence to be even more precise and having some of their own bench guys (Fred Sr.) turn it up to eleven.
This NBA Finals has had no similar sense of momentum, and we arrive at Game 6 in almost the same place as we did two weeks ago.
Suffocating defence and a monumental frontcourt game won the Raptors Game 1, with the other side of that coin sitting as a reason why they lost Game 2 three days later. Game 3 was played without Klay Thompson. Game 4, the best win of this series for Toronto, was aligned with a singular Kawhi performance. And, of course, the first four games were clouded over by the will-he-or-won’t-he return of Kevin Durant — a storyline that was quashed dramatically, and unfortunately, in the second quarter of Game 5.
So here we are, with the series 3-2 in favour of the Raptors, and we’re scrambling to find the plot. Certainly, a weakness of the Warriors has been at centre, forcing them to give Kevon Looney a go tonight despite an injured collarbone that has held him out from playing extended minutes.
Kerr says Looney just warmed up and they believe he will play.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) June 13, 2019
The Raptors have had a talent advantage overall too, beyond the mismatch opportunities presented by Golden State’s bigs. Through most of this series, the help provided to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson has been inconsistent at best, missing at worst. With no more shadow of Durant looming over the series, Toronto should have the production to close this thing out — whether it’s the last game at Oracle Arena or not.
And yet, there’s that sense that the last punch thrown at the Warriors needs to be the hardest. We saw at the end of Game 5 what a championship team can do with their backs against the wall.
The Raptors need to be resilient responding from that, but also hungry enough to play the full 48 minutes with the intensity needed to clinch a championship.
It could happen tonight. Let’s go through the game details... and watch.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 9 PM ET
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Golden State - Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Toronto - none
Golden State - Kevin Durant (achilles - out)