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NBA-End of season trade rumours and free agency-Lakers update

Anthony Davis will wind up with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers after all.

The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to trade the disgruntled Davis to the Lakers for point guard Lonzo Ball, forward Brandon Ingram, shooting guard Josh Hart and three first-round draft choices, several people familiar with the situation said Saturday.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade cannot become official until the new league year begins July 6. ESPN first reported the trade.

The deal ends a nearly five-month saga that became an awkward NBA sideshow, arguably derailed the Lakers’ push to make the playoffs and even cost people jobs after Davis requested a trade in late January through his agent, Rich Paul, who also represents James.

Now the 26-year-old Davis, a six-time All-Star, will bring his dynamic, up-tempo, above-the-rim play to Hollywood alongside the 34-year-old James, a three-time NBA champion and Finals regular.

In return, the Pelicans receive the promise of a young core the Lakers are blowing up in order to make the deal, as well as the opportunity to add more; New Orleans already had the first pick overall in Thursday’s draft and will have the Lakers’ fourth overall choice, giving new basketball operations chief David Griffin the chance to add another top-tier prospect to his presumed first pick of Duke star Zion Williamson.

It remains to be seen, however, how well Ingram will recover from a blood clot that sidelined him for part of last season. He was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis in March.

The Lakers and Pelicans missed the playoffs last season and Davis’ trade demand caused a palpable degree of acrimony between the clubs as the Lakers publicly pursued a deal and the Pelicans asked the NBA to look into the possibility of a tampering violation.

After the trade deadline passed with no deal, Davis finished out the season as a lame-duck All-Star who at times heard boos and insults during home games and the Pelicans fired then-general manager Dell Demps. Several Lakers players acknowledged they had been shaken by thoughts of their possibly imminent departure, and resulting losses slid them out of playoff position at midseason.

Getting the deal done became a near-imperative for general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss after the Lakers’ latest round of front-office drama. On the final day of their franchise-record sixth straight non-playoff season, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson abruptly quit his job and criticized Pelinka for talking behind his back.

Johnson couldn’t resist another backhanded shot at Pelinka on Saturday with a telling series of tweets that began: ”Great job by Owner Jeanie Buss bringing Anthony Davis to the Lakers!”

With the Pelicans’ front office now run by Griffin, whose relationship with James dates to the championship they won together in Cleveland in 2016, relations between the two franchises warmed enough to complete a trade that will ripple throughout the NBA. It will affect the offseason plans of a number of other teams – namely, the Boston Celtics, who actively sought to acquire Davis and had an arsenal of young talent and draft picks to potentially include in a deal.

Davis is a dynamic 6-foot-10 forward who also plays center, shoots with range, runs the floor, blocks shots and can handle the ball. He has averaged 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during his career. But in seven seasons in New Orleans, his Pelicans teams made the playoffs just twice and won one series against Portland two seasons ago.

The Lakers might not be done shopping for big names, either.

Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Southern California native Kawhi Leonard are among free agents who could be pursued by the Lakers, who’ve made no secret of their plan to build a super team through free agency.

Davis has just one year remaining on his contract before he becomes eligible for free agency, but that was less of an issue for the Lakers than any other trade partner, given Davis’ and James’ shared representation.

The trade also helps launch a new era for the Pelicans under Griffin as New Orleans bids adieu to the ”Unibrow” and welcomes young talent the Lakers had patiently assembled with a series of high first-round picks and later choices that brought high value.

The Pelicans’ biggest prize in the deal should be Ingram, if healthy.

The 21-year-old, 2016 No. 2 overall pick showed signs of becoming an elite scorer alongside James, and he is expected to recover fully from his blood clot problem and the resulting procedures.

The deal ends a tumultuous tenure with the Lakers for Ball, whose dream of playing for his hometown team lasted just two years.

The 2017 No. 2 pick from UCLA grew up considerably with the Lakers while breaking free from the influence of his famous father. He exhibited effective playmaking skills and strong defense for the Lakers when healthy. However, he struggled to score and appeared in just 99 of 164 games over his two seasons due to numerous injuries.

Hart played two solid seasons as a member of the Lakers’ rotation, averaging 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds after arriving from Villanova.

NBA-End of season trade rumours and free agency-GSW update

Whether Durant sees it that way going into free agency next month, Kerr isn’t about to guess. Especially now that the two-time NBA Finals MVP is headed for what could be a yearlong recovery from surgery for a ruptured right Achilles tendon.

”Well, the injury kind of throws everything for a loop, so I have no idea what Kevin’s going to do,” Kerr said Friday. ”I know that we all want him back, and we think this is a great situation for him and vice versa. So, hopefully we get him back and keep this thing going with the understanding that he’s a free agent and we want what’s best for him, and he’s free to make any choice he wants. Hopefully he’s back, and we will all give him any advice, any counsel that he needs. And ultimately he’s going to make his own decision. He’s earned that.”

A day after losing Game 6 of the Finals to the champion Toronto Raptors, Kerr and general manager Bob Myers braced for an uncertain summer while still trying to cope with the heartbreak of seeing Durant go down in Game 5. Then Klay Thompson tore the ACL in his left knee during the third quarter of Thursday night’s 114-110 loss in the final game at Oracle Arena. Durant was injured in Game 5 on Monday night in Toronto, then underwent surgery Wednesday in New York.

”This year more than any other tested the fabric of our team,” Myers said. ”It’s hard to not value a championship as much as I value short of winning a championship, and in some ways more than winning a championship, this year I might have been the proudest of our resolve. I don’t know if that’s evident. I hear that from people in the Bay Area, the support we’ve gotten, the things people say about kind of conducting ourselves as champions. That stuff matters. Winning matters, too, obviously. It all matters. Try to continue to hang onto that culture.”

In February, Durant became frustrated over all the fuss and speculation about where he might play next season, and said ”I’m trying to play basketball.” He signed a two-year contract last summer that includes a player option for the 2019-20, so Durant can become a free agent to pursue a maximum five-year deal. The Warriors are expected to try to sign both Durant and Thompson to those max contracts.

Asked how optimistic he is about bringing back Durant, an emotionally exhausted Myers said, simply, ”I don’t know” while noting of free agency ”it’s never what you think.”

”He’s a guy who’s been, like I said, what more can we ask for from him?” Myers said. ”He’s been everything to us, the guy has been everything that we could have ever dreamed. He’s been an awesome member of this organization. There’s so much he does in the community that probably doesn’t get as many headlines, things he’s done in D.C., his foundation, how he kind of lives his life. We’re lucky to have been around him. Hopefully we’ll keep doing that.”

All season, the Warriors were determined to cherish this ride together knowing the roster could look far different once training camp rolls around in September – along with the venue as Golden State moves across the bay to the new Chase Center in San Francisco. Golden State’s players also insist they have never taken for granted the special five-year run featuring three championships and five consecutive Finals berths.

”In the history of this NBA you could highlight every team that was supposed to win or had the best team and all the different story lines. And 82 games and a full playoff run, a lot can happen,” Stephen Curry said. ”It’s just a matter of how much you fight and just leave it all out there on the floor. I think the way that we have talked and described this journey and whatnot, I don’t think there’s ever been a situation where we have taken anything for granted. And that’s something I can look back and just hold.

”We all can hold our head high that we gave it everything we got. … Two guys who go down and the game’s kind of taken away from them in those moments, it’s not a good feeling at all. And it’s kind of a helpless feeling in terms of two freak plays that send these guys back to the locker room. So it’s tough, but it’s part of basketball, it’s part of the game. Again, I just hope their recoveries are strong and they come back better than they were before.”

Thompson’s knee surgery has not yet been set. Kerr doesn’t expect to ever see two injuries this severe in consecutive Finals games again.

He was still stunned a day later, and Myers, too. Now the GM must immediately turn his focus toward next week’s draft and then free agency. Both expressed their tremendous pride in how the Warriors fought despite being denied a three-peat.

”You’re talking about two career-altering injuries to two of your best players in back-to-back Finals games. Unheard of. It will probably never happen again,” Kerr said. ”We’re in new territory now and you just have to keep moving forward.”

NBA-Playoffs 2019-Finals- Raptors win first ever title

Kawhi Leonard raised his arms high in triumph and celebrated Canada’s first NBA championship.

”We the North!” is now ”We the Champs!”

Leonard and the Toronto Raptors captured the country’s first major title in 26 years with their most remarkable road win yet in the franchise’s NBA Finals debut, outlasting the battered and depleted two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 on Thursday night in a Game 6 for the ages.

”I wanted to make history here. That’s what I did,” a soaking wet Leonard said, ski goggles perched on his forehead and sporting a fresh black champions hat.

Stephen Curry missed a contested 3-pointer in the waning moments before Golden State called a timeout it didn’t have, giving Leonard a technical free throw with 0.9 seconds left to seal it. Leonard, the NBA Finals MVP for a second time, then got behind Andre Iguodala for a layup as the buzzer sounded, but it went to review and the basket was called off before Leonard’s two free throws. That only delayed the celebration for a moment.

When it actually ended, the typically stoic Leonard could let it all out. A Canadian team – and we’re not talking hockey here – stood on top of one of the traditional major sports leagues for the first time since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Serge Ibaka pulled his head up through the hoop by the Golden State bench as the crowd chanted ”Warriors! Warriors!” after a sensational send-off at Oracle Arena.

Curry walked away slowly, hands on his head on a night Splash Brother Klay Thompson suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and departed with 30 points.

Fred VanVleet rescued the Raptors down the stretch with his dazzling shooting from deep to score 22 points with five 3s off the bench, while Leonard wound up with 22 points. Kyle Lowry scored the game’s first eight points and finished with 26 in all to go with 10 assists and seven rebounds.

Fans poured into the streets in Toronto, screaming and honking horns after the Raptors pulled off a third straight win on Golden State’s home floor that said goodbye to NBA basketball after 47 seasons. And the Raptors did it with the very kind of depth that helped define Golden State’s transformation into a dynasty the past five seasons.

This time, the Warriors were wounded.

Golden State already was down two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who had surgery Wednesday for a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Then, the Warriors lost Thompson – and they couldn’t overcome just one more heartbreaking injury.

”A lot of bad breaks in the finals, to be honest,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. ”Like us, they kept on playing. We just had to keep on playing no matter who was out there. And I think they were super intense high-level games and both teams desperately trying to win.”

This thrilling back-and-forth game featured 18 lead changes, nine ties and neither team going ahead by more than nine points.

Curry scored 21 points but shot just 6 for 17 and went 3 of 11 on 3s. Iguodala added 22 for his biggest game this postseason as the Warriors did everything until the very last moment to leave a lasting legacy at Oracle.

Thompson provided his own dramatic memory. He injured his knee when fouled by Danny Green on a drive at the 2:22 mark of the third, was helped off the court and walked partially down a tunnel toward the locker room, then – shockingly – re-emerged to shoot his free throws before going out again at 2:19. He didn’t return and left the arena on crutches, and the Warriors announced that an MRI had confirmed the torn ACL.

”More than the what-ifs is just feeling bad for the players involved. Injuries are always part of the NBA season – any professional sport, injuries play a huge role,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”It’s just the nature of these injuries, the severity of these injuries. And we’ll know more about Klay. But we can sit here and say, well, if this hadn’t happened or that hadn’t happened, that doesn’t matter. What matters is Kevin Durant is going to miss next season with an Achilles tear and Klay suffered a knee injury.”

In their best Bay Area version of Jurassic Park – Toronto’s jam-packed gathering spot to cheer the Raptors – hundreds of red-clad fans stayed long after the game ended to watch the Larry O’Brien trophy ceremony. They waved the Maple Leaf and sang ”O Canada” just as they did here after winning previously this series.

Lowry’s hot start was almost fitting. It was the Toronto guard who got shoved on the sideline in Game 3 by Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens, now banned by the league and team for a year.

The Raptors, in their 24th season of existence, rallied from two games down to beat the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals then took down the mighty Warriors on their home floor to deny Golden State a three-peat.

The Raptors went 8 for 32 on 3s in a 106-105 Game 5 defeat as the Warriors staved off elimination Monday in Toronto. They started 5 of 6 from long range in this one and finished 13 of 33 and converted 23 of 29 free throws.

Curry and these Warriors never, ever count themselves out. Yet down 3-1 in their fifth straight NBA Finals, they didn’t have the health it took to win the past two titles and three of the past four against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

”This five-year run’s been awesome but I definitely don’t think it’s over,” Curry said.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Leonard scored 732 points this postseason and on Thursday passed Allen Iverson (723) for fourth place and Hakeem Olajuwon (725) for third on the NBA’s single-postseason scoring list. James is second with 748 accomplished last year behind Michael Jordan’s 759 points in 1992. … Toronto 9-16 all-time at Oracle Arena but 4-0 overall this season.

Warriors: Thompson’s 374 career postseason 3s passed James (370) for third place on the career playoff list, trailing only Curry (470) and Ray Allen (385). … Thompson notched his second 30-point performance this postseason, 13th of his career and fourth in a finals game despite not playing the entire fourth quarter.


NBA-Play offs 2019-Finals-Game 6 preview

NBA Finals – Game 6 
Toronto at Golden State (-2.5/211.5), ABC, 9:07 p.m. ET
May 30 – Raptors (-2) 118 vs. Warriors 109 (Over 212.5)
June 2 – Warriors (+2) 109 at Raptors 104 (Under 213.5)
June 5 – Raptors (+3) 123 at Warriors 109 (Over 210.5)
June 7 – Raptors (+5) 105 at Warriors 92 (Under 215)
June 10 – Warriors (-1) 106 at Raptors 105 (Under 217)

The Warriors are favored to become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals after digging themselves a 3-1 deficit.

They would be the first team to do so immediately after losing a two-time Finals MVP to an injury, but writing them off as a result of Kevin Durant’s absence wouldn’t be wise. Although he clearly gave them a boost in the 12 minutes of action he saw before rupturing h is Achilles tendon, this Golden State group persevered following his demise and has won plenty of games without him helping to make life easier for anyone else.

Golden State is 6-3 in this postseason without its star, so even though being a plus-6 with him out on the floor on Monday ended up contributing to its eventual 106-105 win, prevailing without Durant is by no means impossible. The “Strength in Numbers” banner that has hung out in front of Oakland’s Oracle Arena for the past few seasons will greet fans for the final time with a potential Game 7 scheduled to be played in Toronto on Sunday night and the team set to move to neighboring San Francisco in the fall. That theme will have to prevail for both the Warriors and their fans as they look to avoid closing out the building with a loss.

Golden State has gone just 6-4 at home this postseason, amassing a point differential of just 1.8. That’s even more disappointing when you consider the Dubs were 39-6 in Oakland over their past four playoff runs entering this one, which included winning 19 of 20 over the past two seasons. This was supposed to be the most special given that it’s the end of an era, but the Clippers set the tone in defeating them twice in the first round. Considering the Bay Area is a little more divided than usual these days with the fancy Chase Center across the bay set to replace Oracle, there has been some finger-pointing that the team’s historically loud fan base has been priced out and replaced by a contingent that has had the audacity to leave early in both double-digit losses in this series.

If the crowd doesn’t help the Warriors get off to a strong start tonight, it would be a massive blow to their chances. That’s no narrative. Down 3-2 and on the heels of an emotionally-draining upset after watching Durant exit with a catastrophic injury, Steve Kerr’s team needs a boost to ensure they can put together four quarters to hold off the formidable Raptors. It’s why Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have gone out of their way to mention how loud and uncomfortable they expect the building to be and why Kevin Durant has mentioned what he expects to see from the fan base in Instagram posts directly after his awful injury and Tuesday’s successful surgery.

Despite coming in as a substantial underdog, Toronto has proven to be the better, deeper and most importantly, healthier team in these Finals. The Raptors squandered a six-point lead with 3:05 left as the Warriors closed on a 9-2 run, holding on when Draymond Green got a piece of Kyle Lowry’s game-winning attempt from the left corner after a double-team forced Kawhi Leonard to pass the ball off. Although Golden State led for the bulk of Game 5, it looked to be out of answers until its one final push and has now picked up its two victories on the strength of a pair of well-timed surges. It scored the first 18 points after halftime in Game 2 to erase a deficit and even the series and is looking for a more complete effort in order to avoid dropping all three of its home games in these Finals. The Raptors won Game 3 and 4 in Oakland by a combined margin of 27 points and won the regular-season meeting on Dec. 12 by 20 (113-93).

The spread here opened with the Warriors laying 3.5 and briefly got up to four points before coming down to three across most shops on Tuesday morning and dipping to its current position of 2.5 points on game day morning. At this point, you should have already gotten in the Raptors if you believe the better team will close the deal tonight. If you expect to see a Game 7 as Golden State defiantly defends its home court one last time, backing the money line may be the play to avoid laying a possession since it appears headed down below -140 after opening at -170.

By all means, Toronto is in a great spot to win its first NBA championship and are -360 at Westgate, -310 at Caesars and -290 at the William Hill if you wanted to back a series price wager that they’ll win either tonight or at home on Father’s Day to clinch a title. The Warriors would yield a return of +255 (Caesars) to +285 (Westgate) if you believe their short-handed roster can pull off an unlikely comeback.

There’s no question that Golden State can still manage to threepeat, although doing it without the forward who was supposed to be in the mix this deep into the series is going to make it all the more challenging. The good news for those who stand to lose their investment on Warriors’ futures is that they’ve yet to put together a complete game in the series. The Dubs still have the ability to put together their best performance to turn back the Raptors and are always capable of stealing any game by outperforming an opponent from beyond the arc. They were bullied in Game 5, especially following Durant’s departure, yet persevered by shooting 20-for-42 on 3-pointers. They made 12 more than the Raptors, the second-largest difference in made 3’s in Finals history.

Stephen Curry has averaged 32.2 in the series and has averaged over 10 points per game more (34.4 to 24.1) as the offensive focal point when Durant has been absent from the lineup. Although he sat out Game 3 with a hamstring injury, Thompson is averaging 26.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the last three contests and can come up with another big game since he’s always a threat when he’s expected to be more aggressive. Few are more effective when they find a rhythm.

Draymond Green has nearly averaged a triple-double but still has the ability to take his production up a few notches since he’s been sloppy with turnovers. Rallying to win this series will hinge on Green avoiding foul trouble in this contest and producing at an extremely high level. He’s played at least 40 minutes in every game and can’t afford to be whistled for a technical foul or he’ll miss Game 7 due to an accumulation of seven throughout this postseason. Green has averaged just under 13 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.6 assists in the series and hasn’t really played well, so he’ll need to outperform that production tonight.

Kevn Looney, who leads the Warriors in field goal percentage (70.9) and offensive rebounds (39) this postseason, exited Game 5 due to discomfort as he attempts to play through a collarbone injury but will likely suit up despite being listed as questionable, giving Kerr a valuable and versatile defender who brings energy and creates second chances. DeMarcus Cousins has been terrible at Oracle Arena in the series, but that may be a result of having just one day of rest between the games. He’s battling back from an injury and has been an x-factor when effective, helping Golden State survive Durant’s injury with 15 points off the bench after initially being benched and out of the rotation.

Andre Iguodala looks like he’s running on fumes, having played far too many minutes this postseason. Following a regular season in which he played 30 or more minutes just seven times, Iguodala has done so 10 times over the last 14 games he’s played since April 28. Considering Durant’s absence and the lack of production Shaun Livingston and Alfonzo McKinnie have brought to the table, don’t expect to see Iguodala’s minutes cut with the season on the line. An additional day of rest should serve him well too.

Kawhi Leonard, averaging 29.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists through the first five games of these Finals, is a heavy favorite to win MVP and should get the award if the Raptors close it out tonight or prevail at home on Sunday. Curry would seem like the way to go if you want to get some value on a Golden State player, but Thompson and Green still have a shot at the hardware if they serve as driving forces in Games 6 and 7. The Warriors will need all of their remaining players to be at their best to help turn around this series, so getting home to try and gel could be the ideal fix to maintain their momentum as they seek to become the second team ever to win a series after falling behind 3-1, having played victim against the Cavs in 2016 thanks in part to Green missing Game 6 due to an accumulation of technical fouls.

After winning back-to-back championships with Durant leading the way after squandering a 3-1 lead to Cleveland, the Warriors are ironically back in the position of having to win without him, looking to become the second team ever to overcome a seemingly insurmountable Finals deficit.


NBA-Play offs 2018-Finals-Game 5 ,win or go home for Warriors

NBA Finals – Game 5 
Golden State at Toronto (-1.5/214.5), ABC, 9:07 p.m. ET

May 30 – Raptors (-2) 118 vs. Warriors 109 (Over 212.5)
June 2 – Warriors (+2) 109 at Raptors 104 (Under 213.5)
June 5 – Raptors (+3) 123 at Warriors 109 (Over 210.5)
June 7 – Raptors (+5) 105 at Warriors 92 (Under 215)

Kevin Durant practiced with his Golden State teammates on Sunday. Reporters who saw him exit Scotiabank Arena didn’t see him limping as he exited the premises. Although listed as ‘questionable,’ if would be stunning if the reigning two-time Finals MVP didn’t wear a Warriors uniform at least one last time in order to try and prevent his team from coming up short of their season-long goal of a threepeat.

The foolish ones among you who thought the Warriors were a better team without him have now been quieted. Golden State is down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, having dropped both home games of its fifth straight championship series despite being favored with Durant ruled out. Toronto won each of the contests in Oakland convincingly and now stands one win away from its first title since entering the league in 1995.

Durant may as well throw on a cape in addition to his Nikes and uniform tonight. He’ll be asked to play savior even if he ends up being more decoy than focal point as the Warriors look to become the second team in league history to battle back from a 3-1 deficit and win a ring.

Ironically, Golden State was the lone victim, losing to Cleveland back in 2016 in order to help facilitate Durant’s defection from Oklahoma City, a move still skewered by many as one that helped ruin the competitive balance in the NBA. The Warriors haven’t finished with the league’s top record, but did take down LeBron James’ Cavaliers in both Finals, doing so rather easily in order to exact revenge. They had one brush with their mortality in last year’s Western Conference finals, but took advantage of Chris Paul’s absence due to an injured hamstring in order to win consecutive games and erase a 3-2 deficit against Houston.

Entering last year’s Game 6, the series price on the Warriors against the Rockets saw them as a -130 favorite at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Even down, they were expected to win due to Paul’s demise. Prior to Game 4 on Saturday night, Golden State was demoted to even money to win the title and the Raptors became the first team other than the defending champs to be made the favorite to win the title (-120). As things stand now, you can get a return of +400 or a little higher throughout the strip and offshore if you invest in the Warriors making history. Toronto is currently in the -500/-550 range to win one more time and crown itself a winner.

Kawhi Leonard is looking like a shoo-in for Finals MVP so long as the Raptors hold on, averaging 30.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in leading the way for a Raptors squad that has seen veterans Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka excel. Pascal Siakam was the hero of Game 1 and has changed games with his length and energy on defense in addition to his ability to create shots when Leonard is being doubled. Fred VanVleet has been the ultimate x-factor, playing tremendous defense on Stephen Curry while burying buckets from beyond the arc, helping stretch the floor by being a threat to shoot it whenever the ball comes his way.

Toronto head coach Nick Nurse, a veteran tactician sitting in the head seat in the NBA for the first time, has proven every bit the worthy opponent for Steve Kerr, excelling through both his game planning and lineup adjustments. He’s certainly had fewer injury concerns to deal with, but has to be given credit for pressing the right buttons and not dragging his team down with bad decisions due to a lack of experience. If anything, he’s been an asset. Starting VanVleet over Danny Green at the start of the second half in Oakland helped contribute to a pair of wins since it allowed him to effectively play box-and-one, taking advantage of the lack of scoring punch out there for the Warriors.

Klay Thompson returned from a Game 3 absence due to a hamstring injury and shot the ball well, finishing with a team-high 28 points, but he couldn’t prevent Golden State from its lowest-scoring output of the postseason in a 105-92 Saturday night loss. It hadn’t been held under the century mark since a March 23 home loss to Dallas and was outscored 37-21 coming out of the break. After turning around Game 2 with an 18-0 run to open the third quarter, it was a startling contrast to see the Warriors squander a four-point halftime edge by being thoroughly dominated in what’s supposed to be their quarter to gain separation in.

The Warriors are in very unfamiliar territory by sitting one game away from elimination in the Steve Kerr era. Discounting the Game 7’s against Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals and against Houston in the 2018 Western Finals in which both teams were facing elimination, Golden State has been on the verge of getting knocked out twice in the last five postseasons,” Rogers said. “Both times came in the conference finals with the Warriors blasting the Rockets at home last season and stunning Oklahoma City in 2016. The victory over the Thunder was the only road win in this stretch when staring elimination in the face as the Warriors outscored OKC, 33-18 in the fourth quarter to force a Game 7 back at home, which they eventually won.”

Durant was on the losing side of that collapse with the Thunder but has since emerged as arguably the NBA’s top player. The Warriors are 8-1 in NBA Finals games he’s participated in. Leonard got healthy this season and has come for the throne vacated by LeBron James, but Durant’s back-to-back Finals MVP awards and his body of work before being injured in the third quarter of Game 5 of May’s conference semifinals against the Rockets had him on the top perch. It now remains to be seen exactly what he can bring to the table.

Siakam and Leonard will likely draw the majority of assignments against him, which means he’ll be thrown back in the mix against a pair of agile, willing defenders who won’t make it easy for him to find a rhythm. His presence alone should be able to get Curry and Thompson cleaner looks and give Draymond Green another option to work with to facilitate offense through, but the rust factor and his likely lack of stamina are challenges that must be dealt with. He’s one of the most special players ever, but it’s hard to imagine Durant will be able to pick right up where he left off, which means his likely return will see him offer up whatever he can for as long as he can, even if it’s as a decoy to get teammates more room to work with.

Kerr has the unenviable task of working with three frontcourt players who wouldn’t be playing if this were still the regular season and now has no room for error. DeMarcus Cousins’ unexpected brilliance in Game 2 helped contribute to Golden State’s lone series win, but he’s been a liability since, picked on defensively and blitzed often on the offensive end, leading to countless turnovers. Kevon Looney is playing through a collarbone fracture that was expected to sideline him the rest of the way, but he returned to lend a hand on Friday night and finished with 10 points and six boards in 20 minutes. Andre Iguodala is currently being held together by Elmer’s glue and paper clips, but played 38 minutes in the Game 4 loss, so Durant returning should lighten his load.

Oddsmakers reacted to Durant’s likely return by downgrading the Raptors from three-point home favorites to laying just 1.5 points entering game-day betting. Considering how little Shaun Livingston and Alfonzo McKinnie gave the Warriors in trying to help fill Durant’s shoes of late, it’s hard to argue that they won’t be better here. What remains to be seen is whether there’s enough chemistry, on the road no less, to overcome weeks of inactivity. With another key figure who is operating at less than a 100 percent giving it a go, Golden State is all-in with a weak hand entering the flop. The Warriors will need for it to be friendly and then will likely need to go runner-runner on the turn and river in order to win three straight and not see their dynasty die off with a defeat that would then be scrutinized to no end entering free agency.

In attempting to win it all in its first Finals appearance, Toronto will need to show off its killer instinct. It must take advantage of Durant getting back in the flow early to keep the visiting Warriors from gaining confidence and getting juiced up. The Raptors must ride their raucous crowd to make communication difficult for a team that won’t be able to rely on carrying a positive rhythm into a road atmosphere simply because they haven’t all played together in over a month.

“Since suffering through an 0-4 ATS run in the final two games of the Philadelphia series and the first two contests against Milwaukee, the Raptors have rolled off a 7-1 SU/ATS mark over their last eight,” Rogers said. “Toronto has wrapped up each of its previous three series at Scotiabank Arena, while holding its three opponents to 96, 90, and 94 points.”

The Warriors haven’t been held under 100 points in consecutive games since Nov. 18-21, having suffered blowout losses against the Spurs and Thunder. They’ll need Curry to bounce back from a Game 4 disappearing act in which he followed up a 47-point effort by finishing just 2-for-9 from 3-point range, shooting 9-for-22 from the field. An extra day of treatment should serve guys like Thompson, Iguodala and Cousins well. Green has averaged nearly 41 minutes per game in the series and is contributing 13.5 points, 9 rebounds and 8.8 assists but must be better and more efficient, so having one more rest day should prove invaluable for him too.

From this point forward, the NBA Finals will be played with two days of rest in between every remaining game. That’s to Golden State’s advantage, but it must get the series back to Oakland for a Game 6, which would then place pressure on them to avoid being eliminated in the final contest ever played at Oracle Arena. As things stand now, Friday night’s loss would be the last result there if they fail on Monday. The Warriors have put themselves in position where they can add to their legacy by doing something special or leave themselves open to criticism for the rest of time, especially with the group likely to disband in some capacity.

Oddsmakers sent out an opening total of 212 for Game 5 but the number was nudged up to 214 at most betting shops after the status of Durant was upgraded to ‘questionable’ on Sunday afternoon.

“You can handicap this total a variety of ways but the possible addition of KD back in the lineup for Golden State has to be the starting point for Monday,” said VegasInsider.com NBA totals expert Chris David.

“Durant hasn’t played in over a month and if he’s practicing, then you have to believe he’s going to give it a go on Monday. In five road games through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Durant averaged 40.2 PPG against the Clippers and Rockets. Golden State did lose two of those five games, both at Houston, while the ‘over’ went 4-1,” David said. “However, the Warriors averaged 122.4 PPG and even if Durant gives you less than half or a third of his average, that’s a big boost to a Golden State offense that’s been running on empty in this series. If KD plays and gets close to 30 minutes, I see no reason why the Warriors wouldn’t eclipse their Team Total of 105 ½.”

The total results for this series sit at 2-2 and the ‘under’ (215) in Game 4 last Friday was never in doubt with Golden State held to its playoff low. David touched on Golden State’s ability to rebound after poor shooting nights.

“Including Friday’s production, the Warriors have been held under 100 points nine times this season. In the following contests, Golden State has gone 6-2 and the offense has averaged 118.1 PPG,” said David. “Sticking with trends, we’ve only seen the Warriors drop three straight games once this season and that occurred in the second month of the season when they lost four consecutive contests. The offense averaged 95.5 PPG during that losing skid.”

The Warriors must also overcome the excitement currently permeating throughout Toronto, which is on the cusp of its first championship in one of North America’s major leagues since MLB’s Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. Jurassic Park, the area outside the arena, is going to be overflowing with fans looking to celebrate, while the atmosphere inside the arena promises to be intense. Golden State would love nothing more than to shut superfan Drake up again like they managed to on June 2, but the Raptors are 9-3 on their home floor in these playoffs, eliminating all three of their Eastern Conference conquests in the building to advance to this point. Their regular-season home record was tied for third-best in the NBA (32-9).

“In 12 playoff games at Scotiabank Arena, Toronto has held seven opponents under 100 points, which is an incredible feat in the offensive age of the NBA. If you’re leaning to the Raptors to close the series out on Monday, it’s hard not to lean to the ‘under’ in the game especially if you look at the production from the Warriors in finals losses. Going back to the 2015 installment, Golden State been held to 98.7 PPG in 10 setbacks of the NBA Finals,” David said. “As good as Golden State has been over the last five postseasons, sometimes the matchup doesn’t suit you and credit has to be given to the other squad. That’s certainly been the case against Toronto and when you factor in the injuries, the flaws and depth issues for the Warriors have become more exposed. Despite only having one superstar, the Raptors team defense has been a nightmare for everybody in the postseason.”